Swine Flu

  • Fact-checking a viral e-mail about swine flu

    Dr. Gitterle
    Dr. Gitterle
    Glenda Wolin, who edits a pair of medical writers for the San Antonio Express-News, wrote a useful blog post debunking a viral e-mail about the swine flu that originated in New Braunfels, Texas, which is in our backyard.

    Wolin wrote:

    With something as unknown and frightening as swine flu, many people send e-mails and post blogs that can “go viral,” and it’s hard to separate fact from fiction, clarity from confusion.

    Case in point: an e-mail by Dr. Marcus Gitterle, an emergency room physician in New Braunfels, that has been circulating since Thursday and makes several statements that disagree with what has been said by most medical authorities.

    Gitterle has since said on his Web site that it was intended for a few close friends and relatives, and “had I been writing for a wider audience, I would have provided a lot more perspective, to prevent misunderstandings, such as the incorrect notion that I felt anyone (officially or in the media) was intentionally obfuscating things.”

    Also, according to Gitterle’s Web site, some versions of the e-mail contained additions and modifications that he did not write.

    Regardless of his intent, the e-mail did spread like wildfire, so here is an attempt to explain some of the claims in it. …

    Wolin then goes point-by-point through the e-mail, checking each claim.

    The mainstream media has its faults, but it does this kind of work a lot — checking the claims of politicians, corporations, and, when it’s called for, messages from a little-known emergency-room doctor.

  • How to learn more about swine flu


    The San Antonio Express-News put together a good collection of resources to track cases of the swine flu and to learn more about it:

  • Medical Writer Don Finley has a story about the closure of Steele High School in Cibolo outside San Antonio. Three students who attend the school are sick;
  • “You’ve got swine flu questions. We’ve got answers,” is an informative blog post by Eric Berger, the “SciGuy” science blogger at the Houston Chronicle;
  • There’s a nice list of links on Mashable, including a map of where the flu has spread. Under the “diseases” tab, click the box that deselects all diseases. Then click on the “influenza” box to view only cases of swine flu;
  • And there’s a fact sheet about swine flu published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Berger at the Houston Chronicle sums up the issue this way:

    No, we’re not all going to die from swine flu.

    Yet while we’re still at the surveillance stage and it’s not a pandemic, there’s reason for concern. And the spread of swine flu provides an important reminder it’s always a good idea to practice good hygiene. The best practices you can take to protect yourself from any form of the flu are simple: cover your nose when you sneeze, wash your hands, etc. Now, onto the questions…

    Update: More handy links:

  • The New York Times put together a good interactive map;
  • CNET offers a useful list of online resources. Medline has a list here;
  • The Government Accountability Office published a report in 2007 about the challenges in dealing with a flu pandemic;
  • The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report has a case study of two early cases of swine flu in California;
  • The CDC published a page listing social media tools to learn more about swine flu. Here’s a YouTube video about swine flu put out by the CDC: