Friday, May 1, 2009

"But Bacon Tastes Good; Pork Chops Taste Good"

(Bonus points for naming the movie quoted in this title (click for the answer))

Upon hearing about the whole swine flu panic, my first though on stopping it was: STOP SCREWING PIGS! At least I'm not as dumb as Paris Hilton on the matter:

(Nod to Hector (in Mexico) for the vid and Dmarks for the link to Hector)

And of course, there's the wisdom that Vice President Biden (AKA, the human Gaffe Machine) added (which does have some logic, but of course throws a wrench into the administrations talking points):

Okay, before I get to the meat of this post, I wish to clarify something (lest I have to endure endless Malthusian references (again)). I'm approaching parts of this from the view of natural functions and processes. Medicine (the profession) is dedicated to fighting those processes so that we all have a better life. And as with other examples of the arrogance of Man (MMGWH, for example), nature has other ideas.

First of all, the swine flu appears to be one of those bugs that is getting overhyped as it spreads in the US. In Mexico (where much of the infection here appears to be coming from), it's causing panic, and it is killing people. Even worse, said panic is adding another killing blow to their economy (in addition to the drug cartels having a little war). As it runs it's course here, it will kill people as well.

However, as I live in a more isolated part of the country (small towns are good for that (except for the delicious Mexican restaurants staffed with people who came from Mexico (yes, I have 2 within 10 minutes of me))), I'm not as worried as someone living along the border with Mexico. Nevertheless, it's made me look at diseases, epidemics, and the way diseases work through the populations in general.

Perspective in Numbers - Having read about disease and death over the generation, I had to look up the big bad in terms of population-killing diseases: the Black Death (which of course, leads to the one and only Thomas Malthus himself (damn, it's all gone circular on me)). This was a disease that could rack up a 30%, 40%, even 60% casualty rate! For example, one number, plucked at random, 100,000 in Paris (half the population at the time). The last number of people dead from Mexico, 12. *boring math sentences* If I divide 100,000 by 12, that means the plague killed 8,333.3 times the number of people the swine flu has. It gets more ridiculous when you realize that the Plague snuffed half the population in Paris that time. The population of Mexico (according to a quick search) is 109,955,400. Let's calculate that percentage: 1.0913515843696626086576921188045e-7. That's what the calculator spat back at me. That's so small, I'm not even how minuscule it is. This is why I'm not worked up over it.

I was going to go on about plagues in the American cities over the prior centuries, but I think I've done enough number crunching.

Aforementioned Section Requiring the Malthusian Disclaimer - Nowadays, we've got the crack team at the Center for Disease Control riding herd on this (by the way, it's a government agency that actually isn't a waste of money). And the discrepancies we see between the infection rates in this country versus Mexico (or even worse, a third world country) show the effects of quality health care on the population can have. Yet people still get killed by diseases.

The fact is that nature is always trying to find way to kill us. And that which does not kill us makes us stronger, of course. So I tend to look at diseases as natures way of pruning out those who should be dead. It clears out the weakness of genetics, keeps the population under control, and means a better quality of life for those that don't die. It relieves the strain on resources in areas that are less developed. And it's perfectly natural (thus the aforementioned disclaimer).

Now this is not to say we shouldn't work to eradicate these diseases (we should). Because behind the statistics, there are families that have to deal with the loss of their loved ones. But this panic mentality over these diseases comes from the unrealistic expectation that medicine can fix everything. Don't deny it, most of us think that way. And a lesson that I see repeated is that we tend to fight the natural tendencies of our world, with our world occasionally handing us our ass just to remind us that we are both dumb and fragile.

So when faced with sickness and disease, I generally approach it with a little common sense and an application of food (feed a fever, feed a cold. Hell, just feed).

Common Damned Sense - It's the fucking flu, folks. Use your head. Take all the normal precautions you take for the flu (and cold) seasons. Satyavati (being a nurse) posted the common damned sense. And if you get sick, you treat it like you'd treat any damned flu. Relax, don't go out, drink plenty of fluids, and if you're not one of the groups that is normally susceptible to dying from the flu, suck it up and ride it out.

Okay, it's almost lunch time. I'm thinking Mexican. Yum.

Update: The Mexican food was good. I even got a whole pork loin (with extra swine flu added) afterward.


dmarks said...

"It's the fucking flu, folks"

That does it. Running out to get some condoms right now.

Anonymous said...

Can we vote? Which is more stupid: What Joe Biden said, or how Gibbs tried to explain it away? That's a tough decision... Gibbs trying to 'explain' Joe's comments. Even the stooges in the press gallery are laughing at the absurdity of the Gibbs "explanation" and they had the nerve to call George Bush Stupid?
Boy do I miss Dan Quayle..

Patrick M said...

Dmarks: That does it. Running out to get some condoms right now.I'd make a joke involving a pig here, but you are in Michigan, so it might be misinterpreted. :)

Care: Look on the bright side. How many more statements like this can we expect from the Human Gaffe Machine over the next 4 to (ick) 8 years? It's going to be entertaining, at the very least.

dmarks said...

No pigs here anymore, either. Even they have moved to Ohio.

TRUTH 101 said...

24 hour news cycle man. They have to keep coming up with stuff to satisfy our lust for information and entertainment no matter how ridiculous or sublime.

Excellent post Patrick.

Patrick M said...

Dmarks: Them thare's fightin' words.

Of course if Ohio and Michigan didn't start shit with each other (especially during football season), poor Indiana wouldn't have a chance. :)

101: They could just show more police chases. Those are always fun to watch. Especially the end, if the person running resists and the cops do a good pile-on.

dmarks said...

We are still trying to get revenge for the Toledo War.

And, by the way, I do root for Ohio State when they play the weasels.

Patrick M said...

Dmarks: I do root for Ohio State when they play the weasels.Good for you. And I prefer the phrase 'bitch dogs.' It's more accurate.

Satyavati devi dasi said...

But this panic mentality over these diseases comes from the unrealistic expectation that medicine can fix everything. No. The panic mentality comes from the realization of what might happen if 30 or 40% of your population was to suddenly die.

Jesus, Patrick, imagine the effect THAT might have on the economy. (I figure maybe this is the only way to make anything make sense to you.) If all the poor workers die (and the poor have disproportionately higher mortality rates in any type of disease, especially this kind of thing) then all there will be left are CEOs and in-charge folks. You think the economy can run on just that? How do you think that might affect the recession, huh?

We are not living in the Middle Ages where traveling more than 20 miles is a major undertaking. Diseases can and do spread over borders and around the world, as we have seen even in these small numbers, amazingly fast. There are no more natural barriers to kind of keep things contained.

Every year 36K people die in the US alone from regular flu viruses. Now, that might not mean anything to you because they're either young, old or compromised, and well hell, we've been looking to get rid of them anyway, so why not the flu? But when you stop and think what the potential outcomes could be when you get a global outbreak of a disease that spreads easily and can kill people in 24 hours, and then you think that the average person is thick as two bricks duct taped together, it makes sense to pound people with information that can potentially save their lives (your "panic mentality").

And this 'it's just the flu'? Would it be more acceptable to you if it was, say, Ebola? What's the difference? Disease that spreads rapidly between people and is potentially fatal. Should we give it a different name, and then you wouldn't sit there so smugly going 'it's just the fucking flu'?

Maybe you don't know a whole lot about the fucking flu, or maybe you'd just rather we let it run rampant through ghettoes and nursing homes, and then call it 'Nature's Way'.

I personally think this situation has been handled real well by all the authorities involved (CDC, WHO) as well as our government. If this flu strain turns out to not be as severe as expected it will still be an excellent test of the global health monitoring systems and will have given everyone a refresher course in basic infection prevention.

And by the way: your statistics? Your 100K people dead of the plague? You think that happened in one week? Plague mortality numbers are measured in years, not in weeks. Don't try to compare the artichokes to the apricots.

Patrick M said...

Saty: Make me get all Malthusian, won't you?

How do you think that might affect the recession, huh?Full employment.

Every year 36K people die in the US alone from regular flu viruses.And we've gotten 12 in a week. Spread that out to a year, that's 624. That's 1.7%. Still small numbers.

And we're talking about a virus we know how to treat and does kill the weak.

And this 'it's just the flu'? Would it be more acceptable to you if it was, say, Ebola? Well, in the case of ebola, I'd suggest no more screwing monkeys.

Again, this is where my section called "common damned sense" comes into play.

I personally think this situation has been handled real well by all the authorities involved...I can't say one way or the other yet. But confidence in their ability to horsewhip this problem is the reason I'm not worried.

Don't try to compare the artichokes to the apricots.Fair enough. 100,000 in a city of 200,000 vs an estimate of 624 (and I'll double that to 1200 just for number crunching purposes) in a country of 109,955,400. That's 50% vs .00001%.

What I'm saying is that it's going to be a statistical nonentity in this country. It would take one of those evil government-engineered superviruses to get a 30-40% mortality rate.

So as long as we all employ said common sense, and the susceptible keep under cover (as they would during the normal flu season), no worries.

KIND AND GENTLE101 said...

What is most important is that we are all saddened by deaths caused by all types of flu. But out of that sadness we should be happy because we are still alive. And we can celebrate life through kindness and gentleness.

To borrow from my friend Satyvati Deva Dasi, let's strive to make The Road to Braj Strewn with Kindness and Gentleness my friends.

Thank you for this wonderful site Illustrious Patrick M.

Satyavati devi dasi said...

K&G101 is smoking crack again... I can tell.

KIND AND GENTLE101 said...

I toke on the pipe of kindness and gentleness now Saty. I wish peace and whatever else Buddhists desire, or don't desire, for you.

Satyavati devi dasi said...

The point is, Patrick, you don't wait and see how many people get sick, and THEN declare an emergency.

You get your shit together at the beginning. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Getting a country ready to deal with a pandemic is no joke. The amount of people you're talking about getting ready is no joke. The systems to deal with it are immense, because you're talking about coordinating all the healthcare providers in the country: getting them educated, putting out the information they need to deal/treat it, getting people to work, getting supplies; do you want to wait until a few thousand people die, and then maybe get your shit in gear?

Can you say Katrina?

There are also the things maybe you're not aware of; it's a well known phenom that a new strain of the flu shows up, seems to fade, and reemerges a few months later more virulently. Remember we are not even in flu season here. These viruses don't just 'go away'. They mutate and so on. We could be seeing something big this fall. In that case, it'll be a very good thing to have prepared now.

If it doesn't materialize, that's wonderful. The country will have had a good practice. Potential cracks in the system can be located and fixed, so that when/if it really hits hard we'll know what to do.

This is the flu, a completely natural thing. But what, just imagine, o conservative, a REAL biological attack? I can name without even thinking pathogens that COULD wipe out half or more of this country. The same sort of systems would be used to handle it. Rather a practice run on something that didn't materialize than being busy trying to find the ass with both hands and a flashlight when something does.

Think of it in the long view. You can't be too careful with this kind of thing. All your statistics mean jack. And what country in the middle ages had 109 million people in it? That was like WORLD population back then. So your calculations don't reflect reality.

The point is that you have to be ready.

Patrick M said...

101: Whatever you're smoking, ship me some of that shit.

Saty: Can you say Katrina?Katrina, Katrina, Katrina, Katrina, Katrina, Katrina, etc.

(Childish, I know, but I think I'm having a reaction from 101's stuff (already!))

As for your points, you'll find no real argument from me. I probably is the 24 hour news cycle (as the pre-K&G101 pointed out) that's getting to me. That's why I linked to you when I got to my usual sagelike advice (after the pig banging jokes and Paris Hilton (herself a walking VD germ farm, I'm sure)).

So in your case, stay away from that nasty bug if you can.