Swine flu: go to bed and take a statistic

December 11th, 2009

BBQ reports that:

Swine flu less lethal than feared

The swine flu pandemic is “considerably less lethal” than feared, chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson says.

A study led by Sir Liam found a death rate of just 0.026% in those infected, the British Medical Journal reported.

This links to the article in the British Medical Journal:

Mortality from pandemic A/H1N1 2009 influenza in England: public health surveillance study

Which states:

Initial reports of 208 deaths between 1 June and 8 November 2009 were received. Of these, 138 met the case definition as being related to pandemic A/H1N1. The others were excluded from analysis because the initial clinical suspicion was not borne out by investigation and hence the case definition was not met (n=56) or because they did not yet fulfil the case definition but death certification or results of postmortem tests were outstanding (n=14). An estimated 540 000 people (range 240 000-1 100 000) in England had symptomatic pandemic A/H1N1 infection in the study period. With this denominator, the case fatality rate was 26 (11-66) deaths per 100 000 cases.

My emphasis.

So H1N1 flu is considerably less lethal than other pandemic strains. Also, the vaccine has been pushed at young adults and children as being particularly at risk. However, Sir Liam’s own statistical analysis concludes:

The paper showed the estimated death rate was lowest among children aged five to 14, with around 11 deaths per 100,000 population.

It was highest for those aged over 65, with 980 per 100,000.

So, mortality is 0.026%.

Or is it?

The Health Protection Agency has carried out studies looking for evidence of antibodies to H1N1, denoting exposure, in the general population and concludes that:

Millions more than thought have already had swine flu, Government scientists say

‘Normal’ flu has a symptomatic/asymptomatic ratio of around 1:1, which means only 50% of people who contract the virus will show any symptoms and end up on the statistical database as a flu victim. This ratio seems to be even lower with H1N1, with as few as 1 in 10 children (the “highest risk group”) showing symptoms. Therefore at least 2, and possibly up to 5, times as many people as estimated have had swine flu.

But! Sir Liam, in his BMJ study, only used confirmed cases of swine flu to work out the mortality rate. If we look at the current death toll of 283 as 0.026%, this implies around 1.08 million people have had swine flu.

If we factor in the other 50%-80% of non-reported cases, we end up with an actual mortality rate of 0.013% – 0.0052%. At the upper rate (0.013%) this means over 23 million people would need to get swine flu in order to generate 3000 deaths, which is at the lower end of the deaths from ‘normal’ winter flu.

In spite of this, we are still being treated to heart-string non-journalism like this, from state propagandists BBQ:

The family of a woman who died from swine flu after giving birth have urged all pregnant women to get vaccinated against the virus.

Despite seeming to state that she died from syptoms not normally associated with flu, but noted in many post-partum problems:

She was later transferred to London’s Royal Brompton Hospital for specialist treatment, but died on November 29 after developing complications including deep vein thrombosis and bleeding on her brain.

A personal and familial tradegy, yes. A reason to get every pregnant woman vaccinated, definitely no.

As a final aside on swine flu, around 70% of those people with symptoms have been given Tamiflu. Here is a nice report which suggests Tamiflu is… er… shit. More of your money wasted, scammed from an ignorant government into the pockets of BigPharma. Roche is also accused of hiding trials data on the effectiveness of Tamiflu. You can look it up. Scamiflu!

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