The media and various experts are telling us to be calm about the imminent Swine Flu pandemic, but not complacent. What, exactly does that mean, and what can we expect?
There has been a lot of inflammatory dialogue about the seriousness of a Swine Flu pandemic, but there seems to be no panic as yet. Still, we need to fully understand what we may be facing here.
As a possible touchpoint, it might be worth investigating a computer simulation created some years back by the Los Alamos National Laboratories:
Simulation of a pandemic flu outbreak in the continental United States, initially introduced by the arrival of 10 infected individuals in Los Angeles. The spatiotemporal dynamics of the prevalence (number of symptomatic cases at any point in time), is shown on a logarithmic color scale, from 1 or fewer (blue) to 100 or more (red) cases per 1,000 persons. Without vaccination, antiviral drugs, or other mitigation strategies, the entire nation becomes infected within a few months.
You might want to check out the map colours on Day 90...
Remember, this simulation assumes no mitigation strategies. Additionally, the simulation was created for Avian flu, and assumed a new virus for which no immunity existed (much like the current threat). It is a not-unreasonable analogue, however.
The disturbing upshot is that in this admittedly artificial scenario, at around day 90, assuming a conservative fatality rate of 3%, there is potential for nearly a million dead.
While perhaps not a 100% applicable to our current situation, this simulation certainly presents food for thought.
But no pork chops, please.