Thursday, May 20, 2010

Whatever happened to 'the Swine Flu'?

We were told that it woud kill 350 people every day in Britain alone. Aren't we lucky...

This is good. I am here glued to a PC (and so are you), in a fairly safe and civilised environment. Only a year ago, the mainstream media was predicting that our streets would soon resemble the catastrophic scenes from 28 Days Later.

The H1N1 Pandemic, or Swine Flu, was steamrolling into our homes. Or so we were told.

The tabloids, of course, led the panic rush. The Express famously sported the headline SWINE FLU WILL KILL 350 PEOPLE EVERY DAY on the front page.

The Daily Mail also did their bit, though at least they picked the verbal form 'could' as opposed to 'will', as they announced that "one in three could be infected" and that retired GPs were drafted in to tackle the end of the world.

The Mail also contributed to the clogging up of NHS helplines as they spread the false news that schoolgirl Chloe died of swine flu within 48 hours.

And who remembers their priceless headline Obama's swine flu scare after shaking hands with archaelogist who died a week later? That was to churnalism what the Mona Lisa is to the world of fine arts.

As for the Daily Star, they beat everybody as they reported a "deadly" mutant "superflu" resulting from an unholy coalition of bird flu and swine flu (or perhaps they were just predicting the post-2010 election UK political scenario).

Their piece was textbook. They just threw figures around like confetti: "100,000 Brits were infected with swine flu in the week ending July 19, double the number the week before."

All of the above, of course, turned out to be a right load of Billy Bollocks.

As 2009 ended with everyone clocking that the Swine Flu had simply turned into the equivalent of WMDs six years earlier, the official number of all Swine Flu cases in the UK tallied at 28,456. As you can see, infinitely below the "100,000 a week" mentioned by the Daily Titties and its sister paper the Express.

As for the number of deceased, there were 412 in the United Kingdom. In most cases, the people affected were suffering from other pre-existing conditions. And bear in mind that each year 3,000-4,000 deaths are attributed to normal seasonal flu in the UK.

But it wasn't just the tabloids that panicked.

A "leading economic forecasting consultancy" issued the apocalyptic warning that "the pandemic could knock 5% off the country's gross domestic product", while Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer for England, famously said that "up to 65,000 people" could die of Swine Flu.

In the end, the government splashed out at least £1bn last year on Tamiflu and vaccine, a good chunk of which remained unused.

Until, of course, the next bout of collective hypochondria.

1 comment:

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

It's always the way, keep us scared, keep us fearful, keep us worrying about the individual and they can do what they will with us.