WASHINGTON, D.C. — In accordance with typical seasonal trends, Gallup is beginning to see an increase in the reported incidence of both colds and the flu among American adults, with an average of 1.9% reporting in September that they were “sick with the flu yesterday.” This is nearly double the 1.1% found in August but up only slightly from the 1.6% reported at this time last year — even amid concerns about the potentially widespread impact of H1N1.
While the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology estimated in late August that as many as 50% of Americans will contract the so-called swine flu this season (compared to 5% to 20% who get some form of influenza in a typical year), there has not yet been any detectable uptick in self-reported flu incidence relative to the same months in 2008 since the H1N1 outbreak first reached the U.S. in April.
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index surveys a random sample of about 1,000 adults each day, or roughly 30,000 adults a month, on a wide range of topics related to health and well-being. One of the daily questions asks, “Were you sick with any of the following yesterday?” The question specifies four illnesses: the flu, a cold, a headache, and allergies.
The reported prevalence of colds is also on the rise, jumping from a daily average of 2.4% of Americans with a cold during August to 5.4% in September.
And over in the Web Briefing is a good Forbes op-ed on “Swine flu and the World Health Organization’s agenda.” An excerpt:
In Australia and New Zealand, flu season has ended, and almost all cases have been swine flu. Yet even without a vaccine, these countries are reporting fewer flu deaths than normal. (In New Zealand, that’s just 18 confirmed deaths compared with 400 normally.) Swine flu is causing negative deaths! The best explanation is that infection with the milder strain (swine flu) is inoculating against the more severe strain (seasonal flu) it has displaced.
This all makes sense once you realize that swine flu isn’t some sort of alien from outer space as we’ve been led to believe, but rather “the same subtype as seasonal A/H1N1 that has been circulating since 1977,” as the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) observes. It’s “something our immune systems have seen before,” echoes Peter Palese of New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
The older you are, the more you’ve been exposed and the higher your immunity level–hence the need to give two swine flu vaccinations to those under age 10.
Nevertheless, because WHO dubbed this a “pandemic,” vaccination plans, emergency response measures and frightening predictions have been based on comparisons with true pandemics that by definition were especially severe. That includes the August report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology with its “plausible scenario” of “30,000 – 90,000 deaths” peaking in “mid-October.”
Check your calendar.