Swine flu: Is there any need to panic? Probably not.
Six people have now died in South Africa in the last month of A H1N1, the new swine flu strain that was only discovered in Mexico earlier this year.
The spread of the disease since has been impressive and since none but those who have recovered from this new strain have immunity (we hope) to it, we all stand a better than even chance contracting this novel form of an old illness.
Reports indicate about 3485 South Africans have so far been confirmed with the virus and medical laboratories are doing a brisk business identifying more. The actual figure is likely much higher as it excludes those who fell ill and recovered without visiting a doctor or those who sought medical help and received it, but without testing.
Fortunately the bulk of the cases locally as well as globally have been mild, although a Tamiflu-resistant version has been identified in North America – and could spell further trouble.
Be that as it may, this still compares well with seasonal flu that kills, on average, about 500 000 deaths every year from three to five million severe cases.
Dr Lucille Blumberg of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) cautions swine flu spreads more easily than seasonal flu but is not any more dangerous.
She says the mortality rate for seasonal flu is 0.2 percent. The morbidity of swine flu, for statistical reasons, is currently higher, at about 0.5%, meaning one has about a one in 583 chance of dying of swine flu. How does this compare with the annual road death toll? Not really something to be morbid about.