Sunday, May 03, 2009

Are we over-reacing to Influence A (H1N1)?

The World Health Organisation has raised the alert level for Influenza A (previously called swine flu) to 5. When it moves up to level 6, it is a full blown pandemic.

A pandemnic meams that the infection has spread to all the continents. But the fatality rate of the infection is still quite low at this time. Not many people die from Influenza A. More people died from ordinary flu than from Influenza A.

Two doctors told me that the measures being taken, such as wearing masks, are not necessary at this stage. It is more important to wash the hands to remove the virus.

A few friends have cancelled their overseas holidays, losing the money that they paid for the tours. It is rather wasteful and the risk is quite low. Perhaps, they are alarmed by the coverage in our newspapers and the advisory given by our Government.

President Barack Obama said that "We should be concerned, but not alarmed". By all means, take some precautions, but do not over-react in implementing the harsh measures - unless things get much worse than now.

Tan Kin Lian
Additional points: 
The fatality level of Influenza A is 3%, compared to 65% for avian flu. More details here.

Latest update: 4 May 
Report from Mexico said that there were only 19 confirmed deaths from Influenza A, instead of nearly 200 deaths reported earlier (which was over-stated). Less people are now infected.  


Loh Hon Chun said...

Influenza A (H1N1), Cause for Alarm?Obama noted that officials are not certain that the H1N1 flu will be more severe than other seasonal flus that kill 36,000 people on average every year and cause about 200,000 hospitalizations. H1N1 may run its course like ordinary flus, he said, noting that the reason scientists are concerned is that this is a new strain.

Obama Says H1N1 Flu 'Cause for Concern, Not Alarm' [via]

The 1957-1958 pandemic flu took 70,000 deaths above the normal flu season, and the 1968-1967 pandemic flu caused 33,000 more deaths than the average flu season.

Swine Flu Reality Check [via]

The "Spanish" influenza pandemic of 1918–1919, which caused ≈50 million deaths worldwide, remains an ominous warning to public health. Many questions about its origins, its unusual epidemiologic features, and the basis of its pathogenicity remain unanswered. The public health implications of the pandemic therefore remain in doubt even as we now grapple with the feared emergence of a pandemic caused by H5N1 or other virus. However, new information about the 1918 virus is emerging, for example, sequencing of the entire genome from archival autopsy tissues. But, the viral genome alone is unlikely to provide answers to some critical questions. Understanding the 1918 pandemic and its implications for future pandemics requires careful experimentation and in-depth historical analysis.

1918 Influenza: the Mother of All Pandemics [via]

Just hope no one will be infected with Influenza A (H1N1). I do not wish anyone, including myself, to be quarantined. That's a lot of inconveniences.

Ruijie said...

Dear Mr Tan,

If any place should be concern, the place is Singapore. Simply look at any HDB estate. How many people are living in one block?Easily 300- 400 people. How many stairways or lifts do they have? Probably only 2 lifts and 2 - 4 stairways.

Consider this as well. On a typical train ride say from Boon Lay to City Hall during peak hours, how many different people come into contact within 1 metre of you? Conservatively 30?

The very high population density of Singapore is precisely why we need to be so alert at this stage. It appears that it is not a matter of whether there will be exports of the H1N1 to Singapore but rather when it will come.

To complicate things a little, many airlines use Singapore as a stopover for refuelling, servicing. No to mention cargo ships that stopover.

I hope this explains things a little on why we need to be so alert right now because if we wait until the first verified case of H1N1 infection within Singapore, it might be too late already.

Wealth Journey said...

Have you heard of the Black Swan Event? :)

hsu said...

I was very worried about the H1N1 flu until some days ago when i saw a certain hospital offer only $36 pm to cover for insurance against swine flu related expenses.. If the flu is at pandemic level and kills many people how can it be so cheap? To my knowledge, during SARS period in 2003 there was NO insurance product available... which insurance company dares to make huge losses. From that advertisement alone, i think many experts think nothing much of the swine flue and in fact i believe we have certainly overreacted!

Parka said...

Anything with a fatality level of more than 1% to me is considered quite high.

Over-reacting is good if it means stepping up precautions.

I cannot imagine a infected person riding the MRT trains.

I've a trip planned to US in July, a crowded convention some more. Let's just hope everything blows over by them.

Mr Tan, your friends who canceled the trip might have really over-reacted. They could have waited until last minute or postpone the flight dates. I hate it when airfares from US airlines are non-refundable. Even SIA is waiving all cancellation charges.

06 said...

I just called up NTUC Insurance and apparently Influenza A H1N1 is only covered in the travel insurance policy

So, if we are infected, we have no coverage at all.

Falcon said...

I just found out that should a trip be cancelled due to government intervention it is not covered. So in the event that a pandemic is announced and when the govt advised against travel then it is not covered. How ridiculous can that be? Anyone from the insurance agencies would like to comment on this? What is the point of buying travel insurance when the trip is cancelled because of an epidemic and it is not covered?

loro said...

The media need to survive and they will exploit any situation to do it. Precaution is always advisible. The best is to have your body ready for what is already happening on the planet.

New sickness will appear on earth. Medicine will not know how to cure them. But there is hope for those that want to do the work. A free gift for humanity is available. No group to join, no money required. Any human being, regardless of skin color, religion, political or religious position has the potential within. Please ask for a free book at It has the practices to prepare yourself. No one can do the job for you. You and you alone can prepare for what is already happening: Floods, Earthquakes, Global Warming, Pandemics, World wars etc.

Nobb said...

Just learned that AIG insurance will cover all H1N1 swine flu related health costs incurred from overseas travel. No extre premium

NTUC will not cover.

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