The Speculist: Flu Season, sort of


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Flu Season, sort of

It is flu season, at least in ten countries as of now (April 29) and certainly in the American press.

There are virtually thousands or more sources on how to not get sick, what caused the outbreak, whether this is or is not a public health situation that suggests any particular action.

You shold read some of them, but this is not about any of that.

In thinking about the flu and other viruses from a Speculist perspective, avoiding illness is a plus, but there is a bigger point

If we are going to live long enough to live forever, we need to micro and macro manage our health. So not getting the flu is a good thing, because (micro) it could kill you now. But the bigger picture is ...well, bigger.

Nathan Wolfe makes a very effective case that (macro) we would be better served by addressing viruses while they are still only infectious in animals.

Of course, that's going to be a tough sell politically and economically.

But there are things we can do right now.
Yes, wash your hands frequently. Avoid airports and areas of known outbreaks if you can.
Like I said, there are numerous reliable sources and you should read some of them.

But we should also start thinking about viruses and infectious disease differently.
Swine Flu has no micro useful connection with pigs. You can eat all the pork you want and not get swine flu (though there are other longevity reasons to avoid hot dogs and bacon and lots of conflicting sources and opinions) .

The name "swine flu" is misleading and we should get in the habit of using the viral nomenclature. In this case, the virus should be referred to as H1N1.

A strain of H1N1, by the way, was the influenza virus that caused 50million deaths in the pandemic of 1918 to 1920, misleadingly referred to as Spanish Flu. Misleading because we do not have adequate data to determine where that outbreak began.

Though I suspect much of the US media coverage of the current H1N1 outbreak is ratings driven, I also am confident that if it was described as H1N1, a strain of which killed 50 million people ninety years ago it would have gotten much more useful focus sooner. And though some would still be tempted to blame illegal immigration or the import export of pigs for the spread, more people would attach no such distracting social or political agenda to a virus.

So, the current flu virus getting all the press is H1N1.
Avian flu of infamy a few years ago is H5N1.
H2N2 Asian Flu in 1957.
H3N2 Hong Kong Flu in 1968.

SARS is the disease caused by SARScoronavirus.
AIDS is caused by HIV (not divine punishment).
Polio - polio virus.
Chickenpox- varicella zoster virus (VZV)
Smallpox- variola viruses major and minor.

TB and MDRTB are caused mycobacteria, which are not viruses.

Do what you can to be and stay healthy.
Encourage and support research that tracks viruses before they even cross into humans.
Think about a mutated H1N1 that is airborne, easily transmittable human to human and more lethal.

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