Comments for en-gb 30 Sat 27 Dec 2014 10:54:09 GMT+1 A feed of user comments from the page found at Fergus Walsh (BBC) Thanks to everyone else for their comments. SkylineOnFire asked about my background. I talked about this in an earlier post.I don't have a medical background, but one in journalism and have been reporting on health and science for many years. You may feel that makes me unqualified to make any informed comments on flu or any other medical topic. Please pick up on any comments in the blog which you feel are incorrect. I welcome input into the blog from those with and without qualifications. Fri 19 Jun 2009 11:48:41 GMT+1 BaggieJonathan I am a diabetic, like millions of Britons. Every year I have to have a flu jab and I am warned of the dangers of flu to me. Yet I am in the Birmingham area the centre of the outbreak in England. My daughters school are nearing closure (the boys school next door already is closed), my wife's college is closed for swine flu, schools on my journey to work by public transport usually used by those children are closed for swine flu. Despite all this I am offered nothing, I have received nothing, I am 'assured' there is little danger. Have I been taking the flu jabs each year for nothing, is it all an expensive lie? Thu 18 Jun 2009 16:23:16 GMT+1 Sutara So, the bottom line is, now that the virus has escaped "into the wild", i.e. beyond the quarantine and isolation attempts of the health authorities, we'll be expecting a significant rise in both the number of infected people and in the rate of increase. So, within a few weeks we can probably expect the levels to increase to somewhere near those of seasonal flu.Adjusted, of course, by a few statistical loadings that will either increase or decrease the rate of infection, e.g. no-one will have immunity from having had a flu-jab for this strain, but some older people may have an immunity from a previous flu event.For statistical information we are reliant on the health services and, as is a current news story,'ve seen that there has been some over-reporting of confirmed cases already, due to a "procedural testing error". That is, of course, when and where GPs and other medical professionals have bothered to even take samples from patients to test.Given our inability to contain it, it's probably highly fortunate that it seems to be, in the main, a reasonably mild infection and not a highly fatal strain.However, for every case that anyone reports to a GP or NHS Direct, there will be others where people just self medicate with 'over the counter' remedies and rest up until the worse is over - which is pretty much what happens with seasonal flu. So we'll need to treat the 'figures' as rough indications rather than facts.And I'm sure that some - given the economic situation - will return to work / school or wherever too early and perhaps be an infection risk to other staff / pupils / commuters etc. Sat 13 Jun 2009 23:05:29 GMT+1 SkylineOnFire Jane 1983, if you like email me at my alt address[Personal details removed by Moderator] and il get back to you. i used to have severe health anxiety and i know just what your going through, and its horrid. so id be more than happy to have a chat with you about anything concerning you. Sat 13 Jun 2009 22:56:45 GMT+1 SkylineOnFire macki62000Whats the point in testing her? Swine flu and seasonal influenza are essentially the same, so why test her? Give her some tamiflu if really necessary and let her recover. If she is in trouble she will phone 999 and get immediate medical help. Why waste doctors resources on testing someone who probably has swine flu when they could be helping people more in need? If she developed complications she would go to the hospital. Sat 13 Jun 2009 22:22:02 GMT+1 macki62000 Actually the situation is laughable as regards checking people for swine flu. My friend has just had the most horrendous bout of flu and when she contacted her GP he did the diagnosis over the phone (after first giving her antibiotics over the phone a week previous). When she phoned back as she was really ill he just mentioned that there was " a lot of flu going about" at no point did he do any checking. She lives in central Scotland! Sat 13 Jun 2009 21:45:29 GMT+1 SkylineOnFire No more likely than seasonal flu since its essentially the same virus. So no, i wouldnt even worry about it. It lacks all of the proteins that make a flu virus very deadly. The past 3 pandemics all had protiens that this one doesnt, and 2 of those pandemics were relatively mild. This virus doesnt even have the proteins that the weaker pandemics had, let alone the 1918 one, so its a very weak virus and i wouldnt worry about a cytokine storm. Sat 13 Jun 2009 21:39:56 GMT+1 jane_1983 I do have one question which has been lingering in my mind: when the first analysis was conducted on the virus scientists reported that the swine flu virus didnt have the capacity for a cytokine storm to take place...does this mean that it has the potential to develop the capacity for this to occur? Sat 13 Jun 2009 21:18:59 GMT+1 jane_1983 I myself suffer from anxiety disorder, and the past 6 weeks since the swine flu has come about, I have been VERY on edge with the whole situation. I feel much reassured by the comments posted by SkylineOnFire, as a more scientific account of the swine flu has been given! I feel that this is missing in the information we are receiving from the media. I certainly would appreciate more information on the genetics of the virus being given (regularly if the virus is evolving), and I'm quite sure many other people would be too?? Maybe this type of knowledge would lessen the feeling of panic (now or in the future) rather than hyping up the number of cases being infected - which is done frequently throughout the day! Now if that is'nt scarmongering i dont know what is! Sat 13 Jun 2009 20:51:46 GMT+1 SkylineOnFire Im honestly quite surprised at the animosity ive been getting off people, not just on this blog but overall about swine flu. It feels like people almost want to be scared by this. That fits in with a lot of theories ive recently read about how bad news latches onto people while the good flies over their head, its very common in people with health anxiety and anxiety disorders in general.I think quite a few members of this discussion may have mild health anxiety, i myself had it as a teenager and its what prompted me to learn about what it was i was scared of. If you really do have health anxiety, i know exactly where you are coming from and i understand completely how my words may seem pointless compared to the sensory assault of 24 hour negativity news. All i can suggest is you stop reading up about it. Reading wont change anything and i already know that in a years time you will all be laughing at that flu that was all over the news last year. End of the day all i can do is say what i belive and what i know to be fact. If its not what you want to hear im happy to stop posting, its no skin off my back.Last thing id like to say...Swine flu has a lower mortality rate, a lower hospitalisation rate, and as much chance of becoming a "super influenza" as seasonal flu. FACT. Sat 13 Jun 2009 19:47:53 GMT+1 SkylineOnFire Feel free to check up on what i said. All of what i wrote is easily found with google. As for my figures, they are plain facts from major news sources and the CDC/WHO etc... I just throw away the media spin and give you the facts.You can all learn about this situation by using it contains every single thing ive said and more. As for how qualified i am to make such statements, i work and study the field involved, and have a background in virology. Belive me or not i am here to inform to the best of my abilities and try and push back the tide of mass media hysteria.I'd LOVE to know about Fergus Walsh, and how qualified he is to be making the statements and blog posts he is, as im quite surprised that health correspondents have been reacting in the way they are. Fergus i mean absolutely no disrespect and im sure you know what you are talking about, id just like to know your medical background, and what it is that qualifies you to be a medical correspondent for the BBC. Im not doubting or being offensive, im just curious as to what is required to get such a position.Thank you. Sat 13 Jun 2009 19:18:56 GMT+1 Cogito SkylineOnFire, your comments are very persuasive and, indeed, reassuring, however, considering that this is the internet and anyone can appear knowledgeable, it would be useful to know how qualified you are to make them. This information would enable readers of this blog to know how much weight to give your assertions. (Please don't take this as antagonism towards you - it certainly isn't: I just want to be reassured as much as anyone else!) Sat 13 Jun 2009 18:49:43 GMT+1 SkylineOnFire No problem, glad i could help. Sat 13 Jun 2009 17:19:19 GMT+1 JenBryte skylineonfire, thank you for your considered response to my posting; your comments are very interesting and most reassuring. Sat 13 Jun 2009 14:37:23 GMT+1 sensiblegrannie I have been inspired to do some learning about viruses and their uses. Did you know that some 'friendly' viruses have been manipulated to become more infective? Virus manipulation is used to enable DNA level repairs to defective cells in diseases such as cystic fibrosis. The viruses are manipulated and used in diseased pig lungs first and then on humans. Some friendly viruses can protect humans from the worst forms of salmonella, and are found in sheep. There is a possibility that viruses although deadly in some forms, could be really useful in repairing the worst forms of genetic diseases. Viruses can also be used to cure other diseases. Imagine a herpes virus being manipulated to cure brain tumors. If you imagine for one second, that you are an individual forget it. Each of us is a community of cells that have decided to co-operate to form one big lump. In every cell in our body we have these little bean shaped things which are modified bacteria and are the powerhouses of our bodies, they are called mitochondria. The beans work like batteries and live in us in a symbiotic relationship (we can't do without each other). Imagine using a super powerful bacteria killer, you can imagine now, what it would do to you. You would metaphorically kill your batteries. Apparently we cannot live without viruses, they are also part of our reproduction programming and essential for having babies. Sat 13 Jun 2009 13:05:06 GMT+1 SkylineOnFire Thank you for that :)Im not one to dismiss the experience age brings, but im also not one to be put down for being young. Im posting nothing but facts, the reason they may seem so outlandish is because they arent reported on mainstream media, especially british mainstream, for various reasons. But feel free to research into it in depth yourselves. Take some time to learn about influenza, about viruses in general, its worthwhile knowledge and is quite interesting.And my vision being narrow? Sorry but please redirect that to the BBC for putting forward articles comparing the 1918 outbreak with this one. Im not going into it again but its propsterous and i feel so sorry for people with health anxiety right now having to read this pack of hysteria as opposed to the facts.anyway, /rant> Sat 13 Jun 2009 11:33:12 GMT+1 sensiblegrannie If there is one thing I have learned from life, it is that age is no barrier to wisdom. Young and old have innate wisdom, sometimes intuitive and sometimes through concentrated study. Some of the most profound statements of truth come from children, and their thoughts and ideas leave me humble. Please never underestimate youthful passion, their ideas, their solutions and their learning. At the age of 20, if a person is not distracted by issues of ordinary life, a person may be so focussed on research and learning that they overtake their elders in knowledge and understanding. Perhaps some ideas need to be challenged but certainly not dismissed or put down. Sat 13 Jun 2009 11:20:45 GMT+1 SkylineOnFire Ok to reply to some of your points.1. Hospitalisation rates are nowhere near as high as even seasonal flu. Im very sorry to say this but the official figures are very much the tip of the iceberg. A minimum, yes minimum of half a million, 500 000 people, in New York alone have had swine flu, with around 500 hospitalisations, and 20 deaths. These arent my figures, these are official CDC and NY health authority figures. 2. Tamiflu is NOT being given out in the US like it is in the UK and Australia. It is only used in cases where the victim has an underlying medical condition, and is never used prophalacitcally like we do here. There are various reasons for this both financial and medical, and this is why we have seen the few deaths they have had in people who were previously ill. You have to take tamiflu within 48-72 hours of symptoms developing or else theres not much point taking it. This is not happening in the US.3. Age and experience has zero factor in this. Its plain facts. Im well aware the flu is a nasty virus as is swine flu. But its nowhere near as bad as the media is making out. And as for the cut in reporting in the past few weeks compared to the start of the outbreak that was to be expected. Now its a pandemic we can look forward to the mass of statistics and "experts" telling us how bad it all is.4. Tamiflu merely reduces the symptoms and helps prevent secondary infections. It doesnt work on the virus per se.5. Without tamiflu the death rate/hospitalization rate would be in line with what the US is experiencing. i.e not severe. There are less severe cases of this than there are seasonal flu, by far. Why wont people understand that?6. Obviously im concerned for pregnant women, people with prexisting medical conditions etc, but these people get affected by the regular flu just as bad! Why on why do we not put things into context here?7. You can choose not to be convinced with my arguments if you like, im merely reassuring people with genuine FACTS as opposed to mass media with an agenda of getting more hits. If you take your time to ask any real scientist about swine flu, anyone with any sense of what influenza even is will tell you this is a mild strain that is very highly unlikely to mutate into something more severe. 8. True figures for swine flu based on the US CONSERVATIVE estimates would put it at, take into account we use tamiflu, they dont, we have a better health system, we have a better flu detection system, ive taken that into account with the figures. US - 1,000,000 infected 1200 hospitalised 40 deaths. UK - 10,000 infected 20 or so hospitalized now? 0 deaths. Australia - 100,000 infected 40 hospitalized 0 deathsThese are official US and Australian figures used to make an estimate on the scale in the UK. This is 10 times less hospitalisations and deaths than seasonal flu why are you not understanding this guys! No offense here whatsoever but please read into things deeply and see that this really is mild. The panic is quite uneccesary. Doubt me if you like, but i think i know what im talking about, and i think its rather hilarious that you never get a drop of positivity on the news. I try and bring you guys the facts of the matter, its up to you if you take it in. Sat 13 Jun 2009 10:12:13 GMT+1 JenBryte Skylineonfire, you write with authority as if you know what you're talking about, but I wonder why I'm not totally convinced by your arguments and why the swine flu virus is still a concern to me? Perhaps it's because I'm not sure that the media have been particularly scaremongering, on the contrary I've found it difficult to get much information from the press in recent weeks, until a Stage 6 pandemic was declared and it reached the headlines again (now, Saturday morning, it's moving on to the back burners again).Or perhaps it's because I'm a lot older than you and have personally seen what just a "very mild flu infection" (to quote you) can do. One of my children who "only" had seasonal flu a few years back went on to develop meningitis and was terribly ill and hospitalised, though fortunately recovered fully. I know of many, many similar cases. The modern use of antibiotics, which helped my child to recover, obviously reduces death and disability rates from meningitis, pneumonia etc. significantly compared (say) to 1918, but can't prevent all deaths. Obviously I know that meningitis, pnemonia etc. are separate illnesses, but they often develop in people who have a flu virus, as it did in my son who would not have developed meningitis if he had not fallen ill with flu in the first place. So, I can well imagine the potential for secondary illnesses if a very big percentage of the population get the swine flu virus. And it is VERY LIKELY that a big percentage of the population will get swine flu, because it's a new virus and we don't have any immunity to it - except perhaps for older people whom I've read may have some natural immunity due to encountering something similar years ago. As a mother I am concerned for my young children. I have been reading (by googling news reports worldwide, it's not on the front pages here) about very large numbers being hospitalised with swine flu in the US, with pregnant women particularly being at risk and many spontaneously aborting. Such is the risk for pregnant women the US health authorities have stated that they should be given Tamiflu, even though they don't know what the risk to the unborn fetus is because it has never been tested. This might not be a concern to you at the moment, skylineonfire, but might be if you or somebody close to you were pregnant. I certainly think this is a distressing and worrying FACT, and it's driven home in recent days by reports of the unfortunate woman in Scotland with swine flu who had her child delivered 3 months early. As numbers with swine flu rise then cases like this will surely rise too.Also, finally, I am concerned that all these hospitalisations, deaths etc. etc. are happening despite widespread use of Tamiflu, which we are told, works on the swine flu virus. We are told repeatedly that the virus is "mild", though later WHO have said "moderate"; but what would the death rate / hospitalisation rate be without use of Tamiflu, I wonder?Skylineonfire, you say you're 20 and I suspect you're at uni studying medicine or biochemistry or something, and I admire your zeal and passion for putting the media to rights; but I think you lack a bit of experience and your vision is a bit narrow. For what it's worth though, I really do hope, with all my heart, that you are right! Sat 13 Jun 2009 08:47:47 GMT+1 Readza A couple of comments on Skyline's points:Viruses don't choose to evolve. Evolution is blind. If a mutation of a virus occurs which makes it transmission between hosts more likely, perhaps through infecting faster or through surviving in the environment for longer, then selection could lead to this new varient being more common, etc. Logically, there's always a need for organisms to evolve: see the Red Queen hypothesis. Section pressure is high for such short-lived organisms as viruses, where the consequence of failing to infect new hosts is immediate extinction. Normal seaonal 'flu changes each year into slightly different strains, which is why a new, different vaccination is typically needed each year. This is thought to be is an ongoing evolutionary response of the virus to the selection pressures it faces, mostly driven by people's prior immunity to strains that have come before.Regarding viruses killing their hosts neccesarily being counter productive to onward infection. Well, not neccesarily. Even very simple mathematical models of virulence (the harm that infection causes to the host) show that killing the host can sometimes be the best thing for a virus to do, even though this appears to be counter-intuitive. Wouldn't all viruses have evolved to be completely harmless to humans if causing the host any harm was as bad for the virus as the host? We've had a very, very large number of generations of malaria viruses or TB bacterium, and they show no sign of treating us better.To cogitodexter:You're quite right, the total number of confirmed cases includes a large propotion of people who have recovered from the 'flu and are no longer infectious.The Health Protection Agency and WHO websites both publish the number of new cases confirmed within the UK and beyond, usually as daily reports. It's not simple to work out the number of infected people about from those values (you need to know other things quite accurately, such as how many cases each case causes, how long people are infected for, and how quick and accurate is the whole testing and confirmation mechanism) but they do you a better idea than the cumulative totals. Sat 13 Jun 2009 08:21:34 GMT+1 Cogito I still haven't had an answer about how many people are CURRENTLY suffering from Swine Flu and how many people have recovered.The media publishes the total number of people who've contracted the illness, but it only lasts so long and since we've not had any deaths in the UK, surely hundreds of them have recovered and can be discounted by now from the figures?If the statistics are produced as they are now, in 6 months time it'll look like there's hundreds of thousands of people all ill, when in fact it'll just be a fraction of that number at any one time. Right now, the head count is doing its own good job of heightening potential panic. Sat 13 Jun 2009 01:21:38 GMT+1 TonyM Could it just be that older folks are less affected because they have more immunity, as a consequence of having been born and brought up before the age of hygiene mania?Already there are people beginning to question whether the modern emphasis on cleanliness is more beneficial in getting rid of germs than it is harmful in preventing kids acquiring natural immunities through exposure. Fri 12 Jun 2009 21:59:49 GMT+1 SkylineOnFire cookn1PLEASE PLEASE read the comments before posting. read my comment, number 2. there is no cytokine storm from swine flu, it lacks the proteins to do it and is not able to cause it. do not post misinformation. even the link you provided says there is no cytokine storm from swine flu. please edit your post accordingly. Fri 12 Jun 2009 19:34:03 GMT+1 cookn01 The reason why old people will survive is due to the fact that they have a DEPLETED immune system. Young people suffer more due to something called the 'cytokine storm' whereby the immune system over reacts to the virus. It pumps in 4 to 5 times the necessary protection than is needed and the body ceases to function properly. Older people cannot produce the macrophages or T cells to the same degree. Please check the following link; Fri 12 Jun 2009 19:24:20 GMT+1 SkylineOnFire ghostofsichuan.There is practically zero chance of H1N1 mixing with H5N1. Very deadly bird flu's have a different clevage point, even the 1918 pandemic, which was avain in origin, didnt have it. its highly highly unlikely that it will ever happen. dont even consider worrying about that its just media scaremongering.sensible old grannieI may have only just turned 20 but ive already become dissolusioned with the press! its hilarious how much they hype a very mild flu infection into something that is going to be the end of all mankind. i find it a disgrace that they are allowed to publish such scaremongering articles without giving a balance. i have not once seen in the british press an article stating the FACTS i posted about swine flu on my previous post. how dare they hold back the facts and throw these "experts" at us who give the old "1918 its back omg" comparisons. its a disgrace, and shows the negative side to a free press. Fri 12 Jun 2009 19:15:36 GMT+1 sensiblegrannie Thank you skyline on fire, to the point and informative, just what the doctor ordered. The Times today made my blood boil. Fancy using the 1918 flu pandemic as a model for today. History has a habit of selecting the interesting bits that are wanted, and discarding boring bits.We live in different times with different circumstances. We have the Internet and mass communication. We have a better diet and better housing. We very rarely have 10 sleeping in one room or one person getting out of bed to go work, so that the next person can get in it to go to sleep. It was quite normal for lots of children to sleep in the same bed, top to toe formation. We have more efficient means of disposing of waste and more efficient ways of preserving foods. Antibiotics deal with opportunist infections following flu and reducing the possibility of Otitis Media (middle ear infection leading to meningitis) a big killer even as recent as the 1930's. We have free vaccinations and free health care so why is the Times using the 1918 model, have they got stocks and shares in panic reactions? Fri 12 Jun 2009 19:03:15 GMT+1 ghostofsichuan Seasonal flus kill people every year and this one H1N1 is no different. Massive media coverage has shown the public how this virus has spread rapidly and worldwide. That they spread rapidly also frequently happens in the modern travel era. The real concern is that while H1N1 remains active, and one has to remember that the northern and southern hemispheres have opposite seasons, the opportunities for H1N1 and H5N1 to marry in some form increases or H1N1 may just mutate on its own into a more virulent strain. Studies have shown that West Nile Virus can become a more problemmatic form with small increases in air temperature.Being of a particular age group will be of little concern or protection. Mirgratory birds,mosquitoes and large urban populations provide the ingredients for a dealy stew. WHO just wants to say without saying, that things could happen. It is admirable that worldwide efforts are being made. Fri 12 Jun 2009 18:54:40 GMT+1 SkylineOnFire glanafon, your right. one reason we are still seeing a disproportionate amount of young and middle aged cases of swine flu is because it hasnt settled into old folks homes yet. its still a young persons virus mostly. thiink about it, young people went to mexico, brought it back, mixed with other young people, who went to school, mixed with with other young people. up to now the majority of cases has been school based and parent based. this is because it luckily hasnt had a chance to get into the older population yet. Fri 12 Jun 2009 18:42:08 GMT+1 riverside 30 to 50 year olds sounds supiciously like parents of kids who go to school pick up a bug and bring it back. Fri 12 Jun 2009 18:25:10 GMT+1 SkylineOnFire Im really getting annoyed at the media coverage. Il point out the reasons this virus CANNOT become another 1918 style mass killer.1. The basic one, a virus will only evolve/mutate when it deems it necessary to increase its transfer rate, and guaruntee its survival. Right now its doing a 99 percent perfect job of both of those, it has no need to evolve. Its highly contageous, and is being passed around perfectly.2. A very deadly virus gives itself a problem. It kills the host. If the virus kills the host, it doesnt infect as many people, so its counter productive to the virus to mutate into this form.3. In 2005, a team of scientists from Mount Sinai medical school rebuilt the 1918 influenza strain using fragments of old lung tissue from the victims of that strain. It was noted this is such a rare occurence, once in a 10 millenia. And that was the very worst a flu virus can get. Even faced with that virus again, nowhere near that number would die. After world war 2, poverty was rife, awful sanitary conditions, zero anti virals etc.... and squalid conditions meant that the virus passed through the very unhealthy population in comparison with todays people, incredibly quickly and violently. If that strain ever made another pass at us, the death count would be at least three quarters less than it was then. At least.4. Flu chromosomes are quite simple eight short strands of RNA that issue the genetic code for a grand total of 11 proteins. They break apart in a jumble inside cells they infect, and then they reassemble, picking up random bits of other flus, which makes the results unpredictable. The swine flu strain lacks several genes known to increase lethality, including those that code for two proteins known as PB1-F2 and NS-1, and one that codes for a tongue-twister called the polybasic hemagglutinin cleavage site.PB1-F2 appears to weaken the protective membrane of the energy-producing mitochondria in an infected cell, ultimately killing the cell. Specifically, it attacks dendritic cells, the sentinels of the immune system. Its lethality could be accidental a protein good at killing sentries might just go on killing other cells once inside the fort. All pandemic flus, including those of the Spanish, Hong Kong and Asian flus, make PB1-F2. So does the H5N1 bird flu. The current swine strain does not. The NS-1 protein also maims the immune response by blocking interferon, an antiviral protein made by cells. Hence the fact there are NO cytokine storms in any of the victims.Basically.... This virus cannot even mutate into something as bad as the hong kong or asian flu, let alone the spanish influenza of 1918! Worst case scenario? It becomes resistant to tamiflu, which wouldnt be great, but since hardly anyone in the US is being given tamiflu out of the several million suspected cases they have had already, with only 30 deaths or so, most in previously ill people, its really nothing to be incredibly worried about. Right now its weaker than regular seasonal flu. And scientists cant see it getting any worse, it pretty much cant. The media have made the biggest crisis out of this as they can, and im sick of hearing two bit "experts" instead of the scientists who actually know about the virus.Just my two cents, and Fergus why arent you pointing these things out? I see a lot of very scary headlines and very repetitive trivial news, but not too much in the way of facts... Im baffled by the media response and the lack of widespread knowledge that this virus doesnt have the qualities necessary to become a mass killer. Fri 12 Jun 2009 16:18:54 GMT+1 cutthecarbon The government policy of closing schools where children develop swine flu at first glance seems sensible medical advice. However Eaton College is a boarding school so the act of closing the school meant they sent all the boys home to potentially infect their families in other parts of the country. Do you think that closing boarding schools with confirmed cases of swine flu is appropriate medical advice? Fri 12 Jun 2009 15:05:59 GMT+1