Hard News by Russell Brown


Swine flu and swearing

There is bad news and good news about swine flu. The bad news, obviously, is that New Zealanders have died or become gravely ill after being infected with the H1N1 virus. The first victim was an apparently healthy young man whose father found him dead in the morning. An infected baby is in intensive care at Starship after suffering a cardiac arrest.

The good news is that a University of Otago team has estimated that the rate of fatalities will probably be considerably lower than the estimates based on data from Mexico. Rather than four deaths per thousand, it is more likely to be one per 10,000 or even per 100,000.

As one of the researchers, Michael Baker, told Kathryn Ryan this morning, that's the difference between about 5000 swine flu deaths in New Zealand, and a toll in the low hundreds or even tens. About 400 New Zealanders die annually after contracting seasonal flu (these aren't recorded deaths, but an estimate of "excess mortality" over winter), although it appears that the groups at risk will be somewhat different with H1N1. (It's looking like there might be twice as many people with some form of influenza this winter, which isn't trivial.)

So far, says Baker, it doesn't look like "a 1918 scenario". But some groups -- Maori and Pacific Islanders in particular -- will suffer more severely. And "these are unpredictable viruses and it may change its behaviour over the next year or two … we're definitely not sounding the all-clear at all about this pandemic."

Our government has ordered 300,000 doses of an experimental swine flu vaccine from an American company. The vaccine will arrive within a month, but, barring emergency, won't be approved for use until around December.

So … has anyone had it?

This week's Media7 will have some range.

I'll be talking to Tim Pankhurst about what's fit to withhold, in the context of the police bid to force John Campbell and four other journalists to give evidence as to the identity of the so-called "medal thief".

Then we're looking at disability and the media, with a panel featuring Curtis Palmer, the associate producer of Attitude; former Radio New Zealand reporter Sally Wenley; and Sacha Dylan -- yes, that's our Sacha.

And you can send the kids to bed for a panel on swearing in the media with Outrageous Fortune co-creator James Griffin, Pam Corkery, and chief censor Bill Hastings. Among other things, we'll be asking James to account for this little number:

Yes, that's all from one episode. What must his mother think?

If you'd like to join us at The Classic in Queen St, we'd need you there by 5.30pm latest. Hit reply and let me know if you'd like to come.


Here's another clip. The Gregory brothers are back, and you know that means more auto-tune the news:

PS: I got paid some money on Friday, and went out and bought a new bike. It's a GT hybrid from Cyco, purchased because it will be easier on my back than my old mountain bike, but I'm kind of stunned at the state of bicycles these days. Disc brakes! Front suspension I can toggle on and off from the handlebars! What will they think of next?

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