Blog | Thursday, August 13, 2009

A reason not to worry about the flu.


When experts are predicting the future, you can be guaranteed that someone will take the other side, if only so they can say "I told you so" when things go contrary to expectations. But let's hope that the experts writing in JAMA this week really know what they're talking about.

These NIH scientists use data from past pandemics to argue that swine flu isn't likely to get more fatal or more transmissable this fall. Basically, they say that the 1918 pattern of infection and death growing from one season to the next isn't very well understood and wasn't repeated in later pandemics. Another expert, who supports their analysis, was ready to go even farther. "It's hard to conceive that if the H1N1 should reappear in the fall in the Northern Hemisphere that we would have a more severe epidemic," he told HealthDay.

But don't start sneezing on your friends and licking doorknobs just yet. The NIH guys warn, of course, that "it is difficult to predict the future course of the present H1N1 pandemic." At least now, though, we have one Pollyanna-perspective pandemic prediction.