The other day I mentioned the fact that at the end of August the US Center for Disease Control stopped reporting swine flu deaths separately from the usual seasonal flu deaths. That was sure convenient since the numbers actually show that the swine flu is rather less lethal than ordinary seasonal flu:
News flash: Swine flu is a massively overrated threat -- overrated not only in the media but by the World Health Organization, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and others who have a duty to know better.
The presidential science council warned in late August that, "in a plausible scenario," swine flu might kill 90,000 Americans with the epidemic peaking in "mid-October." But it's now obvious that this won't happen.
Total deaths since Aug. 30 from "Influenza and Pneumonia-Associated" illness are 1,397, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site FluView (cdc.gov/flu/weekly/). But only 192 of those have been laboratory-confirmed as flu of any type. (And yes, people die of pneumonia from many causes other than flu.) In fact, FluView reports that deaths from influenza and pneumonia are well within the normal bounds for this time of year -- or, as the CDC puts it, "below the epidemic threshold."
Golly, even adding the flu strains together doesn't provide any basis for panic. And look when happens when you really do try to separate out the swine flu cases:
The CDC no longer publishes specific data on swine-flu cases or deaths. But the FluTracker Web site (flu- tracker.rhizalabs.com/) does. As of last Friday, it listed 680 total US deaths compared to 644 the week before. That's just 36 deaths in a week -- or about the number the CDC estimates die every four hours of "regular" flu during the season.
FluTracker also provides a graph that shows new worldwide cases and deaths -- and that tells us deaths are occurring less often than they were a month ago. They were lower in the past week than in the previous three.
New York City data indicate that swine flu is perhaps a tenth as lethal as the seasonal variety. Plus, government Web sites from such southern hemisphere countries as Australia and New Zealand, whose flu season is now ending, show fewer flu deaths than normal.
And the Swine Flu Count Web site shows about 4,100 deaths worldwide in the last six months, fewer than die every six days from seasonal flu.
They're dropping like flies! Not.
But here's the real puzzle:
Note that, when it issued its "up to 90,000 deaths" report, the presidential council had ample access to the preliminary data from all these sources (and many more) showing the mildness of swine flu. Some scientists.
So you tell me. Are Obama's science advisors merely incompetent or are they working yet another big government hustle like the kleptocrats at The UN's World Health Organization?