29 April, 2009

Swine Flu-alia

Two great ads promoting vaccination during the 1976 epidemic:
The second one is priceless.

In case anyone is as fascinated as I am by the swine flu, here are some blogs I've been following:

Effect Measure - A public health blog with a progressive twist. Here's a kind of scary post about our lack of preparedness in case the pandemic does actually get worse.
Virology Blog - Less public-health-y and more science-y. Here's a post about how we may (emphasis on the may) see the flu disappear in the US relatively soon, spread throughout the South, and return in a more virulent form in this autumn. I found this somewhat reassuring, since we'll be well on our way to having a vaccine by then.

Here is an economics paper (unfortunately gated) that uses the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 to look at the effects of in utero flu exposure on outcomes later in life. For example, they estimate that males whose mothers were infected during pregnancy had 5-9% lower incomes on average.

Here is a daily updated confirmed case count.

Why am I fascinated? Probably to subvert my own fears, in the same way that one can be fascinated by severe weather. But influenza and viruses more generally are a really interesting phenomenon. The seasonal flu stays "alive" all year by traveling between the Northern and Southern hemispheres, causing diametric flu seasons in each one. It constantly shifts and morphs through different genetic variations, seeking that which will be most effective in promoting its own propagation. It's pure evolutionary logic at its best...and worst.

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