Some Good Swine Flu Information

With all the hoo-haa surrounding the dreaded swine flu it has been hard to know which sources to trust. So as a followup to my previous post on the topic I’ve compiled a short list of some excellent articles which I recommend that anyone with an interest in finding out reliable information on the topic have a look at.

First up, is Dr. Steven Novella’s excellent article ‘Swine Flu: Science, Pseudoscience and Panic‘. Dr. Novella is a neurologist but he is basing most of his article on an interview he conducted with Mark Crislip who is an infectious disease specialist. The article discusses the makeup of the virus and provides some general background information on influenza & previous influenza pandemics and then goes on to address whether we should worry (not yet) and the media hubbub surrounding swine flu (great minds think alike!). Very well written with good, clear information and nice links to relevant sites. No.1 source I would recommend right not for an overview.

Second, are the two articles written on the topic by Ben Goldacre of ‘Bad Science‘ fame. The first is ‘Swine flu and hype – a media illness‘ a critical piece arguing against those who are downplaying the threat posed by swine flu. This may seem at odds with my previous post on the topic but I think Ben’s criticisms are valid and are more focused on those who are dismissing the potential threat out of hand rather than those (such as myself) who are suggesting we should not overreact.

He is, in fact, primarily taking aim at an article Simon Jenkin’s wrote for the guardian with the quite straightforward title ‘Swine flu? A panic stoked in order to posture and spend‘. Although, I don’t agree with Simon Jenkin’s spin on the issue I think it’s a good idea to read both set of articles as it gives you a good insight into the debate surrounding this issue. Ben Goldacre has more science on his side but at the same time I think he is also guilty of adopting a bit of a ‘contrarian of the contrarians’ position.

Ben’s second article on the topic is in a similar vein as the first and is questioning how impressive Tamiflu- one of the apparently effective anti-viral treatments- actually is. Also of note, is the fact that the guardian, chose to give this article, which is largely critical of Tamiflu, the misleading title ‘Come the pandemic, the drugs do work‘ which further illustrates a point I made previously about headlines in articles frequently being very silly. Anyway, that aside it is another informative article. Although, again think Dr. Goldacre is putting a slightly negative spin, on what is by all accounts a treatment which is proving quite effective.

The third and final set of articles I want to recommend are those available from the Science Media Centre. The Science Media Centre is an organisation which provides the opinions of relevant scientific experts on topics for the media- their quotes are the ones you will typically see featured in all the other popular articles on the topic- and they have a bunch of good articles on swine flu. The first is a list of quotes from relevant experts generally urging people not to panic. Then there are two popular Q&A sheets (here and here) and a fact sheet. All of which provide excellent summarised information that gives a good overview of the current scientific opinion on the issue.

There’s several other articles I could recommend but I think that should be enough to satiate most people’s interest. Good sources and good information without any hysteria… enjoy!

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