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Swine flu statistics

Posted Jul 31 2009 5:56am

A full-page question and answer article this week (Protect yourself from swine flu) in popular UK magazine Closer announced that ‘hundreds of thousands of cases of the disease have now been diagnosed in the UK’.  Expert advice (credited to Dr Christian Jessen from Channel 4’s Embarrassing Illnesses tv show) claims that swine flu carries a 1-4 per cent chance of death, adding that the disease spreads quickly, but that antiviral medication Tamiflu ‘is effective in helping most people recover’.

I don’t know how much maths doctors are expected to master, but I’m guessing it’s less than homeopaths (and that’s from someone for whom maths class was hell).

If ‘hundreds of thousands of cases’ of swine flu have been diagnosed in the UK, and there have been ‘over 30 deaths in the UK’, surely that’s nowhere near the ‘1-4 per cent risk of death’ stated in Dr Jessen’s article?

According to the BBC news website today, one in 150 people in the UK have now contracted swine flu (so that’s 1:150 in a population of 60million, which I calculate as 400,000 UK swine flu cases), and there have been 27 UK deaths.  That’s a 27 in 400,000 risk, or a 1 in 14,814 chance of death, by my reckoning (I’ve been poring over a hot calculator and chewing my pencil stub).

You have more chance of dying from a sunny day (risk of death from hot weather is 1 in 13,729).

The same BBC news website states that ‘officials say more than half of children taking Tamiflu suffer side-effects such as nausea and insomnia’.

Yet it’s been reported that drug giant GlaxoSmithKline’s profits have risen 10 per cent since the virus was identified and GSK chief executive Andrew Witty was reported as admitting the swine flu virus crisis would be a ’significant financial event for the company’.

Go figure.

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