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Return of the deadly swine flu?

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With Christmas looming and the holiday season upon us it’s fair to say that the celebrations will, for many, be marred by some illness or other.  Whether simply a case of over indulgence or something more serious, the holidays are always a bad time for our health.

At this time of year we’re guaranteed a cold, or in worse cases flu or pneumonia.  In April 2009, on the cusp of winter and spring, the world was gripped by a new epidemic, namely swine flu. Fears are renewed this year after 10 deaths in the past 3 months have been attributed to swine flu.

David Prosser reported in British newspaper The Independent, that during the 2009 swine flu panic, GSK were given an estimated £700 Million by the Government in order to produce 60 million vaccines to deal with the swine flu outbreak. But the costs to tax payer didn’t end there as there were also heavy advertising costs to consider which pushed the final bill to over £1 Billion.

Swine flu, termed H1N1, originated in Mexico and was given the unpleasant moniker by media groups.  The news spread faster than the illness and fear mongers told us that we faced a deadly epidemic.

Examinations by various medical bodies and universities discovered that H1N1 was in fact a hybrid virus that contained traces of human influenza, as well as avian and porcine strains. How the virus managed to encompass all three variations is still hotly debated by scientists and conspiracy theorists alike.

The UK epidemic peaked in April 2009, and a total of 457 deaths were reported, mostly old and infirmed or very young victims. The last 3 months has seen 10 deaths which have sparked new fears over a resurgent and deadly epidemic. To put things in perspective though, and quell some fear mongers’ claims, it has to be pointed out that deaths by swine flu are minimal compared to those caused by seasonal flu which annually claims 6000 lives on average.

Some believe that last years outbreak was a good thing as it meant more flu vaccinations were made available, the result of which is less deaths so far this year.

Employers and tax agencies will hope the flu vaccines continue to be made widely available as the cost to the economy in sick days (7.6million in 2009)  is costing the country an estimated £1.35 billion.

Did you contract swine flu last year, or know anyone that did? Let us know what it was like by leaving a comment.

Read more about flu and our previous coverage of swine flu.

images: sciblogs.co.nz, cashive.com

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