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A plague on the panic-mongers

January 7, 2011

I was in a shop earlier when I happened to see the headline on the Daily Express front page.  Flu plague?  Really?  The article goes on to tell us that otherwise healthy people are dropping like flies and that the vaccine is running out.  The only thing missing is a cry of ‘run for the hills!’

A plague can be defined as: ‘an epidemic disease that causes high mortality; pestilence’.  This emotive word has its root in latin originally, through old english, as a word meaning wound, stripe or pestilence.  It is most often associated with bubonic plague, or the Black Death as it was known in the 14th century.  During the 14th century plague the mortality rate in Western Europe was around 50%; half of the people infected went on to die as a result.  An outbreak of plague in London in 1603 killed an estimated 38,000 people.

So, how many have died in this ‘plague’?  50 apparently.  Each death is a tragedy for families and loved ones, no question.  They do not, however, amount to a national health emergency or ‘plague’.  We know Swine Flu is nasty, but it didn’t kill us all in 2009 and I’m pretty confident it won’t do so now either.  As for the vaccine running out, this seems to be based on some GP surgeries in England.  There is no widespread vaccine shortage.

So, what is this story about?  Some of it will be the standard Daily Express obsession with over-hyped medical stories.  Of course, a good dose of panic and threat to life-as-we-know-it has been proved to be good for the old circulation and is probably a cure for deadly flu.  As for any other possible reasons, I will refrain from comment for now.  I’m sure you have your own ideas.

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