May 3, 2009

Swine flu spreading at mathematical rate

HEALTH - Swine flu (the H1N1 virus) is spreading at mathematical rate. In fact, we may be able to predict the speed at which it spreads across the globe.

This past Thursday we sat down with a calculator and looked at the figures for the spread of the H1N1 virus, taking daily tallies for Wednesday and Thursday and using that to determine the percentage of increase.

Wednesday: 3,500 people worldwide suspected of having swine flu, including 343 people in the United States and 19 people in Canada.

Thursday: 4,000 people worldwide suspected of having swine flu, including 594 people in the United States and 33 people in Canada.

These figures indicated the global epidemic was increasing at the rate of 15% per day, and hot zones like the USA was spreading at 73% increase and more intermediate zones like Canada it was spreading at a 58% increase.

Using that we predicted the global spread would be 4,600 on Friday, 5,290 on Saturday, 6,083 by today (Sunday). We also calculated the spread in the USA (Fri 1,027, Sat 1,778, Sun 3,076) and Canada (Fri 52, Sat 82, Sun 130).

In theory as people start to take more precautions this should slow down the rate of spread. But there was also the chance for people to just ignore it, not worry about it, not realize they are sick, be carrying the deadly flu and spreading it to others without realizing it... or just plain assholes and be spreading it on purpose.

There was also the factor of the weekend, a time when people tend to either stay home... or go out to a movie, the beach, etc. We're fairly certain the weekend would decrease the overall rate.

What we discovered however is that our estimates were partially accurate, especially in Canada where people seem to be taking the flu less seriously. Our predictions of 52 on Friday and 82 on Saturday were pretty close to the results of 51 and 81. This morning its up to 85 and we will be watching news reports today to see how close it gets to our 130 estimate.

Our global estimate of 4,600 on Friday was off the mark, as it only grew to 4,400. Conflicting news reports in the USA suggest the swine flu has shrunk or grown, so we're going to wait for more accurate information for that one.

As soon as we get more accurate estimates we will be creating a new mathematical model to make more accurate predictions at how quickly the swine flu may spread. People taking extra precautions (washing hands, wearing surgical masks, quarantining themselves) should decrease the spread significantly.

Spokespeople for the World Health Organization say the pandemic level may be raised to 6 in the coming days, the highest level and will indicate its become a global pandemic.

So far cases tend to hit men the most, because men are the least likely to take precautions such as washing their hands regularly.

There is also still a lot of confusion about how people get swine flu, with less informed people still thinking it comes from pork products. That is good news for people who love eating pork chops and bacon, as the prices of pork products are coming down.

"I don't eat that stuff," says Paris Hilton, unofficial spokesperson for the totally uninformed.

(Personal Note: Reminder to buy bread, eggs, milk, bacon, pork chops and toilet paper today.)

See Also:
Swine flu spreading faster than expected
Worldwide Influenza Pandemic Warned
Swine flu hits Mexico and western United State

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