Weekly Flu Watch – What swine flu ISN’T doing this week

Welcome to the second edition of “Weekly Flu Watch,” which relies on data, rather than the apparent media dictum that “One anecdote is worth a thousand statistics.”

As I’ve noted previously, every Friday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes a new edition of FluView, which tracks all types of flu but currently only swine flu since that’s all that’s out there now. Most figures are from the previous week, though some are newer.

And every week the hysteria-minded media ignore it. But for those who do care about how our alleged pandemic is progressing, herewith the latest from the CDC with supplemental information from elsewhere.

As you probably know, the media proclaimed that THIS WEEK the epidemic finally took off. Of course, that’s what they said last week. Now they’re wrong again.

Total deaths since August 30 from “Influenza and Pneumonia-Associated” illness according to the CDC website are 1,397. But only 192 of those have been laboratory-confirmed as being flu of any type. And yes, people do die of pneumonia from many causes other than flu.

The CDC no longer publishes data on swine flu cases or deaths. However, the FluTracker website does, and as of today lists 149,359 total confirmed U.S. cases with 680 deaths, compared to last week with 136,268 cases and 644 deaths.

For the mathematically-challenged, that’s just 36 deaths in the past week. By comparison, the CDC estimates 36,000 Americans die annually of seasonal flu, or about 1,800 each week during the season of approximately 140 days.

FluTracker also provides a graph that shows new worldwide cases and deaths and that graph shows, rather graphically, that they are currently far below where they were two or three weeks ago.

And the massive outbreak on college campuses you’ve been hearing about? The American College Health Association’s latest weekly survey at this writing shows new cases have DROPPED by 19 percent compared to the previous week.

FluView reports that the percentage of samples testing positive for swine flu from the sentinel system of laboratories is down slightly from last week, at 22.8 percent, with the data here.

(Though as I write this the last week’s figures haven’t been entered yet.) Another way of looking at it is that only about a fifth of the samples that even doctors (much less scared patients) suspect may show swine flu do not show influenza of any type.

That’s one indicator of hysteria.

Another is that despite all the indications that there were fewer new flu cases, the percentage of visits to emergency rooms and outpatient clinics by people worried they have the flu – and worried enough to seek medical attention – is incredibly high. It’s about five percent of all emergency visits now.

Finally, deaths from influenza and pneumonia are well within the normal bounds for this time of year, or as the CDC puts it, “below the epidemic threshold.”

Repeat, there is no flu epidemic. There will be because now flu season has officially started. But all the pap in the papers? False.