Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu Thoughts

The rate of mortality, or the death rate, is only one aspect of any pandemic. Equally important is the infection rate.

A flu virus with an infection rate of 10 %, and mortality rate of 3 %, will kill .3 out 100.

A flu virus with an infection rate of 50 % , and mortality rate of 1 %, will kill .5 out of 100.

The 1918 virus was close to a 50 % infection rate, with a mortality rate of 3-5 % .

Typical flu is around 15 % and .33 %

The current virus seems to have a higher than "typical" rate of infection. This is not surprising, given that it looks to be new, and therefore no one has immunity to it. The mortality rate is uncertain.


There have been some mistaken assumptions about Mexico bandied about on the blogs, and perhaps implied a bit in the press. One of these is that Mexico is a poor country. When, by international standards, it's a middle income country.

Mexico, according to the 2007 World Bank estimates, is the world's 13th largest economy by GDP. It is 50th in per person GDP (with PPP), at $ 12,780. China is 90th, for instance. Argentina is 49th, Turkey 51st.

The areas of Mexico hit with the most deaths, however, are poorer areas – including southern cities like Oaxaca, and (probably) the shantytowns in and around Mexico City. Though, the areas of origin in the Mexico City deaths have not been announced. The north of Mexico, which has a relatively higher per person GDP, has not been hit as badly in terms of number of deaths.

Much about this flu is conjecture, but a really bad situation could develop in the urban slums of developing nations if this thing spreads like wildfire. I believe that is why the WHO is acting with some speed in increasing their pandemic alert.


As has now been mentioned in the mass media, a Smithfield Foods farm in Veracruz, Mexico is the possible site of origination for the H1N1 pandemic.

There is a story-within-a-story about Smithfield Foods, described as the United States' largest hog and pork producer.

A few days before swin flu hit, rumors were rife about a possible takeover of Smithfield by the Chinese agriculture conglomerate COFCO. Smithfield has been losing money for a good period of time, and China is interested in their know-how in terms of developing their own agriculture sector, which is quite inefficient at the moment.

As mentioned in an earlier post, the modernization of the Chinese countryside is probably the best chance capitalism has to to break through the current global crisis of over-production/ under-consumption.

I wonder if the Smithfield rumor was advanced by the company, however, perhaps as a way to get government aid. A TARP for food companies ? Because I really doubt the U.S would let a foreign company control the nation's food supply to that extent. The Unocal – China deal was blocked for similar security reasons, albeit in energy.

As Kissinger said : “Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people.”


Thomas said...

Quote: "The current virus seems to have a higher than typical rate of infection."

If I may ask: On what basis did you come to that conclusion?

Purple said...

'Seems' , based upon the kind of clusters that have sprung up. Particularly in the New York school. Hundreds of kids don't get sick so quickly during a normal flu. At least, no school I've worked at.

But as I've said, this is a hypothesis based on reported incidents. The WHO agrees, for what that's worth - although I think they are pretty perplexed about this virus, on the whole.

Thomas said...

It's really strange, isn't it?

On one hand, you get hundreds of kids falling sick in one school, apparently based on one (or very few) initial infections.

But on the other hand, the number of infections in Mexico is supposed to be rather moderate, even after several weeks.

Unless the Mexican data is simply crap, which it might well be.