Fraser Nelson

Behind the swine flu panic

Behind the swine flu panic
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I am instinctively sceptical about health scare stories, so have been watching the Swine Flu story with much suspicion. We are seldom reminded that it's less serious than normal flu. Hysterically, Andy Burnham claims there could be up to 100,000 infections a day in Britain next month - the latest worldwide tally is 121,000. We are told how many die from swine flu, but not how many have also died from normal flu so we can put it in context (the DoH, remarkably, can't tell me).  

Proper diagnosis is not being done by our doctors. Virtually anyone with a summer cold is being told to stay at home for seven days - result! - and prescribed Tamiflu just in case.  I went hunting for the normal flu figures, but found something else instead: that this is a London flu. The below graph is the latest national figures for "influenza-like symptoms" by region.  

Most of Britain (esp Wales) is not noticing much of an uplift. But London (black line) is soaring as is Birmingham (purple dotted line). As the Royal College of GPs says in its update (here):  "the localisation of influenza activity is unusual compared with typical winter influenza experience". But, again, to put this in context, rates above 100 are normal for winter flu season. What Londoners and Brummies are now experiencing is an unseasonal outbreak of a less dangerous flu:

UPDATE: For those CoffeeHousers who want a larger version of the graph, it's on p2 of this pdf.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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