Saturday, October 17, 2009

Global Warming explained

I found the Skeptical Science site a while back when looking for backup in an email argument about global warming.

This latest post, I think, sets out the picture quite clearly.

The thing I like best about the way the articles on that site are written is the way citations are given, so you can look up the scientific papers yourself, and see what the experts in the field are writing.

I found it particularly interesting to read the article about how much heat the oceans are storing - it really shows the extent of the problem, and explains a lot why you'd see stories like this one, stating that the Arctic could be almost ice-free in summer within a few years.

The way most comments use a similar style (including citations to back up points) is quite refreshing! Certainly a much higher standard of commentary than you see on many sites (although the occasional "I don't believe you, just because!" comment sneaks in...)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Swine Flu redux - we're screwed...

From this article:

Intensive care units recorded a 500 per cent increase this year in the number of critically ill flu patients with pneumonia in both lungs -- and experts are concerned what will happen when the disease returns.

The first comprehensive review of the havoc swine flu caused has found the number of ICU admissions this year for any type of influenza A, of which swine flu is one variant, were increased 15-fold on previous years.

And that was with only 36,000 cases of swine flu. What happens if we get a million?

More articles:

Swine Flu victims young, healthier

Swine flu: Toll on Australia is bad omen for U.S. intensive-care units

Scrubbing In: It's swine flu we should fear, not the vaccine that saves us

You can just do a Google News search for "swine flu" and you'll find plenty more...

Monday, October 5, 2009

More scary Swine Flu numbers

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are somewhere between 80,000 and 85,000 hospital beds in Australia - that's public & private hospitals combined, and all types of beds (acute care, emergency, etc etc, but excluding stretchers & trolleys & other 'temporary' beds that could be pressed into service in an emergency).

Why is that relevant?

Well, I was thinking about the numbers in the previous post.

If 36,670 people got swine flu, and 4,806 needed to be admitted to hospital, that right there is 5% of all the hospital beds in Australia taken up by sufferers of this one disease. On top of what it frequently stated to be a strained & overloaded health system.

So we do a thought experiment. Lets say that, next flu season, the swine flu comes around again after incubating & mutating up north in the northern hemisphere winter. So, by the middle of next year (the beginning of Australia's traditional flu season), we might see as many cases again. What if it then really breaks out, and infects a mere 10% of the Australian population?

That's 2.2 million cases. If the ratios stay the same, that means at least 10,979 people would die (which, all by itself will increase the death rate in Australia by about 10% for 2010).

I say "at least", because it also means that 288,000 people would need hospital treatment. That's three and a half times as many sick patients as we have hospital beds in this country. I suspect that, in this scenario, many of them would die, because the health system wont cope, and seriously ill people wouldn't be able to get the treatment they need to pull through.

In such a scenario, we might easily see more than 100,000 deaths attributable to swine flu - that's one person out of every twenty in the country.

Think of your circle of friends, colleagues, neighbours. Which ones do you think would die? Yes, there are 'more vulnerable' people, due to pre-existing health conditions, but there's also a surprising number of otherwise young-and-healthy victims with this flu.

Now imagine that 20%, 30%, or even 50% of the population catches this flu.

I'm really starting to appreciate why the government is buying enough vaccine to treat every person in the country!

Tell you what, it'd make the whole GFC thing look like a frikkin' walk in the park...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Some Swine Flu factoids

As at 2 October 2009, in Australia:

  • 36,670 people have been confirmed to have swine flu
  • 183 of them have died - that's about 1 in 200
  • 4,806 have been admitted to hospital
  • in the past week, 36 people have been admitted to hospital, 10 of them into intensive care
I found this data in the latest bulletin on the Australian Government's Health Emergency website, which has lots of info about the swine flu pandemic.

I dug this up while I was responding to a post on a forum, where a guy posted a link to an anti-vaccine video, which was referring to the 1976 swine flu vaccine in the US. In that case, 25 people died as complications from the vaccine, and about 500 more got Guillain-Barré syndrome.

But considering they vaccinated slightly north of 48 million people (48,161,019 according to Wikipedia), that's a death rate of 1 in 1,926,440, and a serious-side-effect rate of 1 in 90,528.

I'll take those odds over swine flu's 1-in-200 lethality rate any day!

To make it perfectly clear: For every person who died from the 1976 swine flu vaccine, it's possible that nearly ten thousand would have died from the swine flu itself, if not for the vaccine.

That's just deaths. Ignoring non-fatal complications, like having to have both of your feet amputated.

Now, I understand that modern influenza vaccines don't have anywhere near the rate of serious side effects as that 1976 swine flu vaccine. You'd think we'd hear about it if they did, considering there are literally hundreds of millions of doses given each and every year. But even if they did, they would still be saving tens of thousands of lives.

I know I'm getting the swine flu vaccine as soon as I can.

How about you?