Health Official: 'Fog of War' in the Swine Flu Data

The swine flu scare could be based more on panic than a legitimate public health threat, said Scott Gottlieb, M.D. former FDA deputy commissioner.

“We’re only seeing the numerator—we’re only seeing the cases that become severe where people either succumb to the infection or get hospitalized because of it,” he said. “What we’re not seeing is the denominator—how many people have been infected by this virus and had an illness for two or three days and got better.”

The question is whether tens of thousands of people in Mexico have been exposed to the illness without exhibiting serious symptoms, said Gottlieb.

“What’s concerning about this was there were a cluster of deaths in otherwise healthy people,” he said. “But we also don’t know a lot about those people and whether they had co-morbid illness that put them in that risk.”

The flu season in the United States is coming to an end, said Gottlieb, which could serve as a "backstop" for the swine flu from spreading.

“This is sort of the fog of war right now—we’re going to have a lot more on the scope on Monday of what this is going to look like.”

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