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Hilary's Desk

Part Three: Dr Huang's Shiver's propaganda

Hilary Butler - Friday, March 15, 2013

On 6th March, 2013, Dr Huang was interviewed by Radio New Zealand.

During this interview Dr Huang emphasised that influenza could be very very serious, and stated that "in Auckland 282 babies per 100,000, were hospitalised last year". 282 hospitalizations sounds BADDDDD doesn’t it.

Serious. Nasty.

Here’s the problem with Dr Huang’s data. She used a figure which would inflate the risk in people’s mind, deliberately in ORDER to make it sound bad. It was a strategy to force people to run and get their babies vaccinated.

How do I work that out?

If you go to Statistics New Zealand,  you will find that in the year up to March 2012, 61,178 babies were born in the WHOLE of New Zealand. And note that births dropped that year by 2%. So it’s safe to say that they dropped again in 2013 by a similar percentage.

If you follow the link on the page to the births section there is an excell document  which shows you that up to March 2012, the two areas covered in SHIVERS data, AUCKLAND and CMDHB had 16,087 births.

So let’s translate Dr Huang’s inflated data down into REAL numbers.

282/100,000*16087 = 45 hospitalised in 2013, in Auckland and CMDHBs.

Is that what Shivers Data says?

No. The answer, including part of THIS year, is 44 babies under one - but that is for BOTH the Auckland study areas and the Counties Manukau areas, (See the top oval on the SHIVERS chart below) and 80 under 4’s, admitted to hospital, with positive flu tests. You only get 282 per 100,000 babies for Auckland AND Counties Manukau, so we don't know what the rate is in Auckland alone.  But it sounds a nationwide huge problem, if you say “282/100,000 babies” when you know that there aren’t even going to be 100,000 babies born in the WHOLE country in one year. The public isn’t going to rationalise this out. They are just going to hear “282" BABIES a year.



You would assume that ALL hospitalised cases of anything, including flu, are tested and are therefore present in this data, for two reasons:

1) there is no point in the SHIVERS project otherwise, since the point of it is to determine EXACTLY what proportion of cases are the FLU and to appropriately treat infections according to principles of “good practice” and....
2) Good clinical practice is to KNOW what you are treating, not to “treat” something by pinning a tail on a donkey blindfolded.


So let’s retranslate that data to a similar formula in the previous blog:

There are 250 Full time equivalent (FTE) GPs in Counties Manukau District Health Board and about 400 in Auckland District Health Board... the two areas which SHIVERS covers.

So that's 650 Full time GPs ... and just say 65 cases (just to make the maths easy) of their flu related SARIs were admitted to AUCKLAND or Middlemore hospitals... that means an average Auckland GP in these two areas, would sees one admission in their practice every maybe 10 years...! And maybe four cases in their whole career!

And that is considered serious?

On the assumption that SHIVERS data is accurate, it is reasonable to assume that Dr Huang’s use of the figure 282 babies per 100,000 – was exaggerated deliberately. Either that, or the data to base that assessment on, has NOT yet been published by SHIVERS, because nowhere in SHIVERS documentation can I see that as a clear-cut statement.

Therefore to me, what was said on National Radio was designed to make people think that flu in babies is much more serious than it really is, because when you break the SHIVER’s data down you see that there were 3263/100,000 (480 cases of SARI/ILI) of which ONLY 44 (282/100,000) were actually influenza.

In other words 436 cases out of the 480 cases of SARI/ILI admitted to hospital in the chart above considered to CLINICALLY represent influenza… were NOT influenza.

But there is more... Part Four.

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