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Treasury on swine flu

Written By: - Date published: 12:07 pm, June 22nd, 2009 - 15 comments
Categories: swine flu - Tags:

Here’s the key part of Treasury’s report on the impact of swine flu, released on Friday:

treasury on swine fluTypically Treasury, it’s more interested in GDP than anything (not to say the effects on the economy won’t be big – it should extend the recession by another two quarters). I’m more concerned about 0.08% population mortality rate, which is derived from the swine flu having the same 0.25% mortality rate of ordinary flu. You see, 0.08% of 4,250,000 is 3400 deaths. Separately, the Ministry of Health is predicting more than 4,000 extra hospital admissions on top of the normal 31,000 in a winter month, placing real strain on the system.

The natural reaction is to scoff (God knows we’re had wolf cried enough recently) but consider there has already been a death in Australia, over 100 deaths in the US and Canada, 180 worldwide. With 44,000 cases so far worldwide that’s a 0.4% mortality rate, a bit above the 0.25% of ordinary seasonal flu.

But remember, it’s not the mortality rate that is unusual about swine flu, it’s the infection rate. They think 30% or more of people will get it compared to about 5% of adults and 20% of children who get seasonal flu in an ordinary year. Again, it’s easy to scoff, especially with only 250 confirmed infections in NZ so far. The number of infections is increasing at an exponential rate. From the WHO:

WHO on swine flu

-Marty G

15 comments on “Treasury on swine flu ”

  1. ieuan 1

    OK what’s your point? We should cancel the swine flu because of the cost?

  2. Merlin 2

    It’s tempting to see this as just another media beat-up. These numbers show that it’s serious.

    Any word on government assistance to workers who have to take time-off for themselves and their families? We can’t have sick families losing their incomes.

  3. Tim Ellis 3

    Typically Treasury, it’s more interested in GDP than anything (not to say the effects on the economy won’t be big it should extend the recession by another two quarters).

    Heaven forbid that Treasury might actually be doing its job, and measuring the effects of various events on the economy. The Treasury should be sitting around and composing long and purple prose about the meaning of life and death, instead of crunching numbers.

    • Merlin 3.1

      Don’t you find it a little chilling that 0.08% population mortality is casually mentioned and the table concerntrates on GDP?

      Of course Treasury should be looking at the economic impacts. But it’s a bit cold-blooded the way the report talks about ‘lower supply of labour’ without acknowledgment of the human tragedy it’s describing.

      That’s the problem with right-wing economics – they forget that the economy is for people, not the other way around.

  4. RedLogix 4

    Marty,

    Nice post as usual. I’m going to quote the Wikipedia entry on the 1918 Flu epidemic at length, it contains a vital point so far only tangentially mentioned in the media:

    The second wave of the 1918 pandemic was much deadlier than the first. During the first wave, which began in early March, the epidemic resembled typical flu epidemics. Those at the most risk were the sick and elderly, and younger, healthier people recovered easily. But in August, when the second wave began in France, Sierra Leone and the United States, the virus had mutated to a much more deadly form. This has been attributed to the circumstances of the first World War. In civilian life evolutionary pressures favor a mild strain: those who get really sick stay home, but those mildly ill continue with their lives, go to work and go shopping, preferentially spreading the mild strain. In the trenches the evolutionary pressures were reversed: soldiers with a mild strain remained where they were, while the severely ill were sent on crowded trains to crowded field hospitals, spreading the deadlier virus. So the second wave began and flu quickly spread around the world again. It was the same flu, in that those who recovered from first-wave infections were immune, but it was far more deadly, and the most vulnerable people were those like the soldiers in the trenches—young, otherwise healthy, adults. Consequently, during modern pandemics, health officials pay attention when the virus reaches places with social upheaval, looking for deadlier strains of the virus.

    If this pandemic mutates into something far more lethal than it’s current 0.1% rate we are in deep crap. So far the best estimates is that we will have a vaccine sometime around August at the earliest, in the meantime health authorities are treading a tight line. If they allow the current version of the virus to spread uncontrolled throught the population, resources will be stretched beyond breaking (remember hospitals will be dealing with the usual stream of very ill from all causes as well) and the economy will get a hammering. On the other hand, the more people who actually catch the illness while it is still mild, the better it is for them as individuals.

    What is good for an individual right now (to catch a mild version and gain immunity) is not good for the nation as a whole. An interesting trade-off.

    • jarbury 4.1

      Hmmm… interesting points.

      Anyone here have swine flu? I want to come hang out with you for a few hours.

    • Lew 4.2

      RL,

      Dead right. I’ve been working on daily status reports on swine flu for most of the month, and one thing epidemiologists are quietly shitting themselves about is reinfection in the Chinese pig industry with a human-transmissible form of swine flu. The Chinese pig herd (and probably others as well) is also thoroughly infected with avian flu and the worst-case scenario is a virus with both different critter flu characteristics: the ready contagion of swine flu and the high mortality rate of avian flu.

      Scary stuff.

      L

  5. Zaphod Beeblebrox 5

    Bigger question is why they were handing out Tamiflu like lollies when it first got here and were wasting their time with closing schools etc… Viruses being less complicated strands of DNA than bacteria, find it easy to change their messenger RNA and will quickly become resistant to drugs.
    I would have thought that you should save your biggest weapons for when you really need it, not give to anyone who was within breathing distance o the first cases, who were probably unlikely to even to get sick.

  6. vidiot 6

    “over 100 deaths in the US and Canada, 180 worldwide.”

    eh wtf ????? Your resource: http://www.who.int/csr/don/2009_06_19/en/index.html
    United States: 44 + Canada: 12 = 56 ?

    Do you have to die from it twice ? Or are we not working in base-10 these days ?

  7. Lew 7

    vidiot,

    Marty might be mixing his sources, but he’s right. While it’s not reflected in the figures linked, the Washington Post reported CDC figures of 87 dead as of Saturday.

    L

  8. Jeremy 8

    They’re not even testing for swine flu anymore unless it gets pretty serious, so NZ no longer has remotely accurate stats regarding infection. My sister and her partner both had all the symptoms but weren’t tested because they didn’t need hospitalization.

  9. gingercrush 9

    Five deaths so far. 1195 cases confirm. 0.42% mortality rate. Of course there is likely far more cases of Swine Flu.

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