Getting Swine Flu in Perspective

Dan Hannan posted yesterday on the Swine Flu Pandemic.

The swine flu outbreak consists of the following

– a fast-spreading virus, that in the vast majority of people causes a fairly mild and short illness.

– The mortality rates are extremely low, and usually are to people in a very poor state of health. The group most vulnerable – the elderly – seem to be immune.

– There is a very small risk of the swine flu mutating into something more deadly, but as yet this has not happened.

The consequence of this – the government is spending huge amounts of money they do not have, simply to damp down talk that they are not doing enough. The scare stories are started by drug companies, keen to see a profit opportunity.

This is clearly a situation where the costs of action far outweigh the benefits. The more reasonable course of telling folks to stock up on Lemsips (or Beechams Powders) and if they suspect they have the flu to stay at home.  The major effort should be put into monitering and the sensible advice currently been put out.

There are similar panics where the proposed cost of solutions far outweigh the benefits

– The expenditure on track and signals following rail disasters.

– The reaction to the credit crunch (we must do whatever it takes)

– The combatting of Global Warming with expensive schemes, with little impact.

The ways to avoid such waste is to first assess the situation, then devise a proportionate (and cost-effective) response. The failing with our current way of working is that the public’s perception is more highly prized than good stewardship of our valuable resources.

UPDATE 15th July

Nadine Dorries has a similar post today

 “I was also struck by the protestations of those who claimed that the true picture of the swine flu outbreak can not be truly known, as many people are not seeking medical help and therefore we need some form of large scale testing to obtain a true picture of the scale of the outbreak. The inference being that on the contrary, this is not something simply as mild as seasonal flu, it’s much worse?!

Er, no, surely not? The reason why people aren’t seeking medical help is because in the vast majority of cases, the symptoms are so mild that they don’t need to,  possibly tipping the scales well over to the point of fact that swine flu is demonstrably milder that seasonal flu and in most cases as severe as a mild cold.”

UPDATE 2 15th July

John Rewood makes comment in “One Flu out of the Cuckoo’s Nest”

So far I have avoided comment on the great pandemic.

In the early days Ministers and government told us they were valiantly combatting it, to stop it reaching us. I bit my tongue. It reached the UK.

Then Ministers told us they would stop it spreading in the UK. I kept quiet. It spread.

Government implied it was virulent and serious. They would fight it in the hospitals and in surgeries, with huge quantities of drugs. Fortunately so far it has proved quite mild for most people catching it, unless they already have some other serious condition.

Now we are told flu is flu. This one is like regular flu. You may not need drugs at all, or if you do a phone call to the GP should suffice to sort it out.

So all we have is a lot of wasted money, a profitable bonanza for the drug companies and undue worry for those infected, or being close to those infected. Another example of the true cost of Politics.


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