back to article Pig plague and Twitter: The terrifying truth

As the world's media buries its snout into the swine flu trough with an enthusiasm not seen since its avian cousin threatened to kill all life on Earth and reduce our planet to a barren wasteland inhabited only by cockroaches and Daily Mail journalists, some news outlets have turned their attention to that most pressing of …


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  1. David Webb


    I think xkcd says it best!

    Their latest one is funny too, a must bookmark site!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    XKCD said it best...

  3. Dark Ian
    Thumb Up

    Ad nauseum

    Literally! But seriously, another clusterfuck as the spoon-feds stir themselves up into a frenzy of panic. This is like a Hindu stampede on a global scale.

    Besides, we need thinning out.

    Oh, and this is funny...

  4. Mark McNeill
    Dead Vulture

    and you didn't mention

    That is all.

  5. Dennis

    More quotes ....

    Time for a quote from Bluebottle:

    "You rotten swine, you deaded me"

  6. Pete Silver badge

    The main result of better communications

    ... is a vastly increased level of fear and misunderstanding.

    Putting aside this latest example (Q: are people who twitter, "twits"?) we've seen this all over the internet. Stories that are years old reappear as each new generation of web-users discovers them and assumes, in their ignorance and arrogance that they are the first to ever see them and therefore repost them yet again. Stories that started live as near-fiction get embellished and twisted far from their original content - and conclusion.

    What twitter has done is to take these half-truths, poorly understood (yet endlessly circulated) irrelevancies and utter lies and speed them up. Rather than having to wait in the bus queue for the latest gossip, to re-tell later to work colleagues, complete with exaggerations of your own for extra interest, we now get them at the speed of light from twitter, forums, websites and news-services.

    It would help if some of the suppposedly responsible news agencies checked their facts once in a while. However, the race against the competition to be first "on the street" with a story made this impracitcal years ago. Therefore all we have now is news-tickers, tweets, rumours and "breaking news" from unsubstantiated sources. Luckily, none of these has any lasting importance or consequences, and is as quickly forgotten as last nights dinner.

    Maybe it's time to stop believing anything (and everything) that doesn't come with an acknowledgement and source of the actual person the news item happened to.

  7. Andrew Moore


    Front page headline last night on an Irish newspaper "PIG FLU TERROR REACHES IRELAND". Sheesh.

    Just to put this into perspective- Ordinary flu kills 36,000 every year in the US alone.

  8. Onionman
    Thumb Down

    ODFO, media tosspots!

    World Health Organisation: "Although difficult to assess.. annual epidemics [of influenza] are thought to result in between three and five million cases of severe illness and between 250 000 and 500 000 deaths every year around the world."

    Swine 'flu is just sodding noise.


  9. James Love

    Spotted panic a few days ago..


  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I saw CNN this morning and could not believe that the presenter managed to keep a straight face while reporting on the hysteria being created by others news outlets and twitter in particular.

    Personally I'm hoping that the pricesof bacon will plummet so I can get the mother of all hangovers and test the true effectiveness of bacon sarnies as a cure,

  11. Anonymous Coward


    "Just to put this into perspective- Ordinary flu kills 36,000 every year in the US alone."

    Yes, but is that enough?

  12. Alasdair Russell
    Thumb Down

    Actually Warren Ellis

    The Swine Flu reaches Australia item is actually an unattributed retweet of something from Warren Ellis ( about 18 hours earlier.

  13. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

    Hey, did anyone mention Moday's XKCD yet?


  14. Trevor


    Flu just doesn't cut it anymore, yes it may kill more people but it's not worth reporting as it has no prefix.

    Bird Flu = "oh noes the Birds will kill us"

    Pig Flu = "oh noes the pigs will get us"

    I'm dreading the next one: MAN FLU!

    It_feels_like its killed 500,000 people already

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I will believe it when pigs fly

    well someone had to say it.

  16. Scott
    Thumb Down

    Come on guys

    I'm a cold heartless bastard and was wondering if i could make money out the hysterical media dupped unwashed with this swine flu, maybe a web site that tells you how to make your own Swine Flu vaccine but have to pay? a magic box that produces a noise to scare pigs away?

    When pig sickness kills more people than alcohol then i might start running around in circles worrying.

    Is that my boss heading towards the lift? back in a minute bugger refused my pay raise.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Rumor of Fact?

    Heard that several cases of swine flu have appeared at our CT casinos but the results were not made public. Any casino is a breeding ground for germs when you consider how many people put their hands on a slot machine. Plus, they're full of foreign workers who travel across the US and beyond visiting familes...just a little scary for me.

  18. Simon Williams

    Lets blame the tool

    Before we all get hyped up to lynching Twitter, shouldn't we just look at are own hysteria. It's not 'Twitter doing this' and 'Twitter doing that', it's the people that use it as a communication medium who are doing it. Sure Twitter makes it easy because you don't need to invest much time and energy creating a Tweet but, as far as I'm aware, there's very little editorial content from Twitter itself.

    People have always like to fire off half-cocked (not least in comments on this very site) and embellish half-truths before passing them on. Twitter just makes this easier.

  19. Wize

    Sounds like time to play...

    ...Pandemic 2.

    (I'm guessing the source of XKCD's Madagascar reference)

    Mines the one with the facemask in the pocket.

  20. alan


    reduce our planet to a barren wasteland inhabited only by cockroaches and Daily Mail journalists,

    Poor cockroaches :)

  21. Andy Shaw

    Daily Mail journalists

    "a barren wasteland inhabited only by cockroaches and Daily Mail journalists"

    ...I can't help but feel that some part of that sentence is redundant.

  22. Jamie Kitson

    Pot, Meet Kettle

    New media, old media, what's the difference then?

  23. Big Duke Six


    Buy a boat load of face masks and sell them on at a huge mark-up. They're doing it in airports already. If you want to be really heartless, buy builders' dust masks, they're cheaper but about as much use as a towel. It seems that some people have now reached that level of hysteria where they'll buy just about anything as long as it's labelled 'swine flu prevention'.

    Think 'organic food', 'low carbon footprint goods', 'fair trade'...

  24. Richard

    So in a few months

    Twitter users should start banging on about the ultimate terror liquid: Dihydrogen Monoxide.

    Unless they're all dead, which can't be bad for the world's average IQ.

  25. Andrew

    @Andrew Moore

    -- Front page headline last night on an Irish newspaper "PIG FLU TERROR REACHES IRELAND". Sheesh.

    Yep, you've got to watch out for that Pig Flu Terror - it's spreading like wildfire.

  26. Alasdair

    How much panic can you get

    if you pull in the Six degree of separation theory and say "You are only 6 people away from Swine Flu!!!!!!!!!!!"

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm moving to madagascar. It'll never get me there.

  28. DirkGently

    Diary Entry 29th April 2109

    Just been going through some hundred-year old news archives. Apparently the news reporters loved to spend their time making people believe they were going to die of bird flu, swine flu and global warming... sheesh people were so gullible back then!

  29. Mountford D

    Re: I will believe it when pigs fly

    Ah, but they already have: Swine flu (flew).

    Groan... Hat, coat, etc.

  30. Jamie Hylton

    Mexicans rejecting vaccinations...

    ... Latest news is that Mexicans are questioning whether they really need a vaccination, and are asking whether a Tequilla Shot is sufficient...

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Asian Flu...

    ..Oh never mind...

    What's this Swine Flu thing? Is it going to be as serious as Avian Flu?

    Chill out, most of us will just die of cancer or heart disease. Nothing to see here.

  32. Pete Silver badge

    @Jamie Hylton

    Personally, I'd never get a 'flu jab. What I want is an *anti* flu jab

    (credit: a Dilbert cartoon from some years ago)

  33. Anonymous Coward

    Pig Flu?


    I thought pigs couldn't fly!

  34. Johnny G

    7 cases

    At time of writting, it's killed 7 people according to the BBCs web site. Yes, that's 7, not the 150 you'd be forgiven for thinking.

    I think The Metro has my fav stories about it. Classics like:

    "A 12-year-old girl is one of three more people confirmed with swine flu in Britain today.

    Her school has been closed as it emerged she had been in close contact with 50 fellow pupils. "

    OMG!!!!!!!! That means ALL 50 of those kids will deffo be dead next week!!!!

  35. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Lets blame the tool

    "It's not 'Twitter doing this' and 'Twitter doing that', it's the people that use it as a communication medium who are doing it."

    Well, sure, but...

    "People have always like to fire off half-cocked (not least in comments on this very site) and embellish half-truths before passing them on. Twitter just makes this easier."

    Twitter and Facebook may just be venues for attention-seeking people to constantly attempt to "entertain" the rest of humanity with their mundane utterances and juvenile observations, but they are venues which are optimised to deliver information of this calibre. Journalists working for the BBC's "new media" department may get excited when someone decides to "tweet" poetry or the Bible (or whatever), but the limitations of the medium do impose limitations on the message.

    In other words, when it comes to much of the drivel carried by such services, Twitter/Facebook are merely Dumb meeting Dumber.

  36. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    IT Angle


    You leave us cockroaches out of this

    "reduce our planet to a barren wasteland inhabited only by cockroaches and Daily Mail journalists."

    Rather eat 3 week old pot noodle than a daily mail scribbler

    Must go.. got the kids to get off to school... all 8 000 of them

  37. Darkwolf


    Sorry for the long post, does el reg have a character limit?

    Just did some quick math.. per wikipedia (I know, not reliable source) regular flu has a .02% kill rate, swine flu has a 2% (im averaging its actually higher) .. a worldwide populate of 07/08 at 6,710,926,117 (according to some sources) if everyone got the flu, the total in deaths would be:

    Total population: 6,710,926,117

    Regular Flu : 1,342,185.2234 potential deaths.*

    Swine flu : 134,218,522.34 potential deaths.*

    (( *Regular flu deaths is actually much smaller each year, however not everyone gets infected each year, and its fairly easily treatable. The above totals are if the WHOLE population got infected, and there were more limited treatments. ))

    and thats if the swine flu doesnt do an antigen shift (which it has a high posibility of doing, higher then regular flu)... which would mean if you survived the initial, you could get it again and die.

    Some people have done comparision to the 1918-1919 flu (Spanish flu which was estimated that anywhere from 20 to 100 million died), saying that this could have the same results. The pandemic is estimated to have affected up to one billion people (about 1/2 the worlds population at the time).

    One of the biggest debates on this, is that in 1918 - 1919, medical care was not as good as it is.

    While this is true, and medical care is much better now, in 1918 - 1919 we also did not have the potential for much larger spread.

    With the ability to go 1/2 way around the world in a few hours (instead months at that time), and how crowded airports are these days, the potential for a larger amount of infection is much greater then it was then.

    Imagine someone infected, going through a large airport, how many you think are going to infected, who are then going to other busy airports.

    Having a stopover between flights, may be hazardous to your health.

    However the way that this is going to be turned into a true pandemic and get out of control would be for it to get a stranglehold in a "slum" area, with a few thousand people, who are to poor to get to a doctor or cant afford to miss work, who then spread it out via people going into / out of the "slum" area, infecting an even larger population.

    For example, if any area of 100 people get infected, and they pass on to 10 people, you then have 1000 infected who pass it on to 10000 people, and so on so on, before they even realize they are infected.

    Also with those who have a "macho" mentality, and pass it off as a regular flu, they will potentially infect a larger number of people, before either deciding to go to hospital or dieing of it.

    At this point, organizations like the WHO are probably less conserned with current totals as they are with the POTENTIAL of this virus.

    Luckily, I have a homebased job, and don't go around large groups of people, so not to worried.


  38. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Radio 1

    I had to chuckle yesterday at the newsbeat reporter's intro:

    "[swine flu] just how worried do we *need* to be?"

    Yes that's right, you *need* to be worried and we'll set that level for you, aren't we kind. How about STFU, do we really need to be told to use a tissue when dribbling snot everywhere or to wash our hands regularly? Maybe we really are a nation of 4 year olds? The best soundbite then came from a womanonastreet saying "I now make sure I carry tissues with me at all times". By now I couldn't stop laughing.

    The way society works is like some sort of dark satire, I'm waiting for the credits to roll or an ad break so I can get up and make a coffee, but it does make for compelling, and amusing, viewing.

  39. James


    Mad cow diesease didnt kill me, Bird flu didnt kill me, SARS didnt kill me, Quite frankly im dissapointed in the severity of outbreaks these days. bring back the plague i say

  40. VulcanV5

    VIRUS LATEST: It's here but there is a cure.

    My computer's been a bit of a swine for the past week or two so it's no wonder it's come down with this latest virus.

    I rang my local medical centre for advice and they said a healthy lifestyle was the best preventative of all, and to remember the old adage that an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

    So I've now buried my old PC in a lead-lined coffin and bought a Mac instead.

    Obviously, I'm fortunate enough to be able to afford Mr Jobs' products but not everyone is like me.

    Many are poor and thick and uneducated and unemployable.

    For them, there is only Twitter.

  41. Darkwolf

    @AC 10:20 GMT

    "do we really need to be told to use a tissue when dribbling snot everywhere or to wash our hands regularly? Maybe we really are a nation of 4 year olds? "

    Based on the majority of people I have seen over the years, YES.

    Go to any grocery store and just sit and watch. You may then agree.

  42. Pig Plague

    twitter feed of swine flu related tweets

    There is a insanely large volume of twitter updates on swine flu, the pig plague, and the coming apocalypse. I'm keeping a running tally here:

  43. Colin Millar


    Where do you get the 2% 'kill-rate' from? This is a new flu variant - no-one has a clue what its 'kill-rate' is. What is more - the 'kill-rate' of any given variant is unlikely to be a function solely of the virus.

    Anyone who tries to claim that x% of people who get y type flu virus will die and (100-x)% will therefore survive is talking out of his arse.

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