Misc. links

Back to the grind this week unfortunately, but the swine flu/H1N1 story is still developing and still fascinating. The most recent numbers show 286 confirmed US cases in 36 states.

There are many remaining questions on the evolution and epidemiology of this strain–and many pundits sure they know what’s going to happen next. Mike takes one of them downWendy Orent, who I’ve blogged about previously. Orent is claiming (based on a black/white version of the evolution of virulence in pathogens) that the spread of this strain is attenuating the virus, and that future outbreaks will be milder. Mike nicely explains why that may, or may not, happen–and why it’s folly to predict with certainty either scenario at this point.

Unrelated to influenza, an editor at the Guardian is angry at anti-vaxers, after his young daughter (11 months old, too young for the MMR vaccine) has developed measles:

According to the Health ­Protection Agency there were 1,348 cases of ­measles last year, compared with 56 in 1998. In 2006 a 14-year-old boy died of ­measles – the first fatal case for 14 years. The reduction in herd immunity is ­causing unnecessary suffering.

The decision by many of my neighbours not to vaccinate their children is on a par with the drunk who decides to get into his car to drive home. It is a personally reckless action that also endangers the lives of everyone else on the road. Society should view the MMR refuseniks with the same degree of scorn.

Finally, the winners of the 2009 Alliance for Science Essay contest have been announced (H/T Panda’s Thumb and Evil Monkey).

Why are the schools closing and other good H1N1 links…

Over at DailyKos, DemfromCT has an excellent post explaining why it may be beneficial for schools to close temporarily, even if they only have one confirmed case of swine influenza: H1N1: Why Do Schools Close, And When Do They Open?

DarkSyde also has one up on the basic biology and evolution of the flu.

Nick Kristof discusses our lack of attention to public health and what it means in the event of a pandemic in today’s NY Times.

[Updated: and via the comment theads, this post which further discusses what I mentioned here regarding testing–and how the confirmed cases are only the tip of the iceberg (complete with diagram!).