Friday, 15 January 2010

Last writes

Swine flu has come to an end in Britain - official. The health authorities have decided that swine flu figures in the UK are now so low that they are stopping their weekly briefings. So it seems an appropriate time to draw this swine flu blog to an end. It has been amazingly popular - easily the biggest 'hit' on our website over the last six months so thank you to all those who have tuned in to my daily rantings. We've raged against the lack of information, laughed at the miracle cures, marvelled at the good work of the health professionals and spared a thought for those families who have suffered the tragic deaths from swine flu. If a third wave does hit, I'll be back. But in the mean time, I wish you good luck and good health - Alan Cleaver.  (P.S. Do join me on my other daily blog, Copeland Crack).

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

A good luck virus anyone?

Watch out for Horizon on BBC2 tonight (Wednesday) at 9pm. It's all about viruses, specifically H1N1 and why some of them turn into killers - makes a great follow-up to remake of apocalyptic TV series Survivors on TV last night! One wonders if they'll also consider any 'good' viruses. Who can forget the superb Red Dwarf episode that postulated that positive viruses might exist, such as the 'good luck' virus. Now a pandemic of that virus would make a nice change!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Wacky headlines reprise

Just when I thought my collection of wacky swine flu headlines was complete, The Australian kindly supplies a new one which I rather like: Regrets? We've had a flu... Very clever! For those who missed my previous collected headlines:-
• ‘Swine Flu Pope’ under investigation for gross conflict of interest
• No Swine Flu deaths in Botswana
• Canadian Aboriginals get body bags after asking government for swine flu help
• Is St Thérèse of Lisieux spreading swine flu?
• Prisoners Got Drunk On Swine Flu Gel
• Now they want to ban handshakes

Monday, 11 January 2010

A personal query

One personal query: I've still not been called for my swine flu vaccine jab (I'm slightly asthmatic). If there are all these millions of swine flu jabs lying around doing nothing, can I now have mine?! And can anyone else who, like me, still worries about swine flu, now go and get a jab?

I bet you're all wondering what happened to Sunday's swine flu blog?! Sorry, I simply 'forgot' after a rather busy day photographic an iced over Derwentwater

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Riddle of rise in deaths

Everyone is so excited about the decline in swine flu that the astonishing jump in deaths in England last week almost went unnoticed. The weekly UK death toll jumped from 300 to 355 (most of those in England). The Times had this to say: "Sir Liam Donaldson said that this did not mean the virus was getting worse. 'I don’t think you can read into the apparently larger increase any particular trend or worsening of the situation,' he said. 'It is just that we are still continuing to see deaths broadly at the rate we have been seeing them.' He added that there had been a “striking increase” in the number of over-65s being admitted to critical care in hospital." Pensioners have traditionally been all but immune to swine flu so this is a worrying announcement. One to keep an eye on.
And having asked a couple of days ago about the cost of all the stock-piled swine flu vaccine we may not be using now, many papers today have picked up on that (well, I'm sure they'd have thought of it on their own!). The total cost of swine flu could be one billion pounds. Terrifying.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Don't forget meningitis

With swine flu on the back burner at the moment, it's timely to just pass on a warning about meningitis which rears its ugly head during the winter months. In fact, nearly 60% of the most serious bacterial types occur between October and March, and although the disease affects all ages, over half of those cases will be in children under 5. Fighting common infections like colds and flu weakens people’s immune systems, leaving them more vulnerable to meningitis. People are also at increased risk as in winter they tend to spend more time indoors and in closer proximity to others, which means germs are spread more easily. With the current cold snap set to continue, more people will be spending time trapped indoors, trying to keep warm, which could potentially mean a higher risk of the disease.

Sue Davie, Chief Executive of the Meningitis Trust, says; “Meningitis is a disease that strikes quickly and can kill, if left untreated, in just a few hours. With experts suggesting that the bad weather could continue for a few weeks, we are urging people to remain vigilant to the symptoms. Worryingly, the symptoms can easily look like other, more common conditions, such as flu or swine flu. But, it’s important to err on the side of caution, be aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis, and seek medical attention as a matter of urgency if you suspect the disease.”

Common signs and symptoms include fever (possibly with cold hands and feet), vomiting, headache, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights, joint or muscle pain, drowsiness, confusion and, also, in babies, dislike of being handled, pale blotchy skin, unusual cry, and a blank staring expression. Both adults and children may have a rash (septicaemia) that doesn’t fade under pressure. Symptoms can appear in any order and some may not appear at all. Rapid deterioration will take hold if left untreated.

Visit or call the 24-hour helpline, staffed by nurses, on 0800 028 18 28 to get a full list of symptoms.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Nostradamus and all that

Did Nostradamus prophecy swine flu? Zazzle certainly think so as they're selling T-Shirts with his "When Pigs Fly" prophecy printed on them. But in fact Nostradamus never said that and the phrase seems to have originated (rather worryingly) in swine flu capital Scotland some time after Nostradamus' death. But, hey, it's a great T-shirt. There were many doom-ridden predictions at the start of swine flu last year but before you start laughing at expectations of 40 deaths a day in Britain, it's worth remembering that millions may indeed have had swine flu as predicted in the UK - but a weaker than expected swine flu and vaccinations have reduced the number of deaths. And the usual winter flu deaths have been very low so it's good news all round.
  • My apologies for the technical glitches that (yet again!) saw my blog vanish yesterday. Hopefully we're back up and running now. Good job I keep a back-up!

Just wondering...

One wonders how much taxpayers' money has been spent on swine flu vaccinations that are now just sitting in a warehouse somewhere. Could be worth a Freedom of Information request!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

It's all a conspiracy

Whatever happened to conspiracy theorist Jane Burgermeister? I wrote about her last August and her belief that swine flu was all a plot by President Obama and other world figures. In short, the vaccine (rather than the flu) would kill millions allowing the ruling elite to seize natural resources and all the homes left vacant by the dead (though what the elite would do with all these empty homes is unclear). Last August she had 6,000 followers on her Facebook page and although she's still going she now has only 5,000 followers. I was intrigued however to note that she apparently paid a flying visit to Scotland for a protest march against vaccination. According to The Scotsman only 80 people took part in the march. I was rather surprised that they chose Scotland for the march. If there's one country in the UK that's suffered more than most from swine flu (and therefore you would think would have the vaccination asap) it's Scotland. For the record, the number of people killed so far in the UK from swine flu: 300. Number killed by the vaccine: nil. But the media is no doubt part of this 'conspiracy' so visit Jane Burgermeister's website for the 'truth'.

Monday, 4 January 2010

So, where are we now?

The dust is settling on 2009 and it's time to look back on the Year of Swine Flu. Where are we now? Well there have been 300 deaths in the UK (Scotland 56, Northern Ireland 14, Wales 27, England 203). There were two main waves of swine flu in 2009 and a third wave early in 2010 can't be ruled out. Internationally there have been 11,516 deaths. It's not been the doom-laden pandemic that some prophesised back in early 2009 but that's little consolation to those who have lost loved ones. One's tempted to think that the press and public should be praising the health authorities for doing such a great job in minimising the effect of swine flu - but it doesn't work like that. Instead we'll just criticise them for getting into a panic about something that fizzled out!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Swine Flu Secrecy Award 2009

I feel that I should be giving out swine flu awards as it's the end of the year. Everyone else is having awards for the best and worst of 2009 so I'm going to hand out my Swine Flu Award for the most idiotic piece of secrecy of the year. It's shared between the health authorities in Newham and Ayrshire & Arran (and probably many others). Both these authorities refused to reveal the gender of a swine flu victim in 2009. Now I can understand the need to respect the wishes of families at a time of tragedy but it's hard to see how announcing whether a man or woman had died could worry anyone. And it's no good the same health authorities moaning when people refuse to have swine flu jabs with such a lack of information. If people (wrongly) believe only elderly women or those already sick with underlying health problems then there's little pressure to have the jab. If the public were told x number of healthy young men, or y number of pregnant women are dying of swine flu it makes it all the more relevant. If swine flu really has gone away for good then I hope any 'inquest' into how this pandemic was handled includes highlighting the lack of data given to the public.