On swine flu

There were encouraging signs this past week from a few cities in the US and from Scotland that things may well not escalate as much as many people fear with the second ‘wave’ of swine flu. It could be that lots more people got infected and had no symptoms the first time around, which means that fewer would be susceptible to the virus now.

In my mind it’s becoming more and more a possibility that it’ll fade into the background of seasonal flu. A view along these lines was put across by Morens and Taubenberger in a paper I covered [PDF] a couple of months ago. If that happens there may well be criticism about all the resources going into vaccines etc. I think it makes sense to take the ‘better safe than sorry’ route when you don’t know the extent of the problem.

But I won’t be making any predictions… As things stand, the fact is it’s a new virus and it hits some people really hard. The most balanced take on the situation I’ve seen recently was put across by Terence Stephenson in an interview with The Independent. It may be as dangerous or a little more dangerous than seasonal flu, but this virus is spreading far and wide. So just by sheer numbers, as it reaches lots of people with no immunity the risk of getting seriously ill gets higher.