By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman, Latin America Correspondent

GUADALAJARA, April 30, 2009 ( – Could the Global Influenza Pandemic of 2009 be a false alarm?  Increasingly, the evidence suggests that the answer is “yes.”

Underneath the hysterical headlines implying a growing threat from the so-called “swine flu,” the data emerging from Mexico City and international sources is indicating that, in fact, the entire “epidemic” might be attributable to nothing more than a misreading of statistics and case histories by Mexico’s government.

In the last 24 hours, Mexican health authorities have dramatically revised the mortality figures for the disease. 

Although the government cites almost 170 “suspicious” deaths possibly attributable to the new “swine flu” strain, it has never verified more than 20.

Now, after a closer review of those 20 cases, it has revised the number downward, admitting that there are only twelve deaths proven to be associated with the virus throughout the entire country, out of a total of only 260 verified illnesses.  However, it is not known how many cases have occurred unreported in people who were never hospitalized.

Although the number of “suspicious” deaths may seem alarming, it is actually tiny compared to the number of total flu deaths that are likely to occur on an annual basis in Mexico.

Indeed, the Mexican government reports that there are an average of 20,000 pneumonia deaths in Mexico every year.  Influenza normally kills its victims by causing pneumonia.

The alarmist statements trumpeted by the major media are also in sharp contrast to the total lack of non-Mexican deaths due to the virus. Although the disease has appeared in multiple countries, only one person outside of Mexico has died of it—a Mexican boy who had crossed into Texas with his family to visit relatives.

Now, American experts are beginning to say openly that the disease identified in the press as “pig flu” seems to be no more deadly than any other influenza virus.

According to scientists quoted today by the Los Angeles Times, the death toll from the virus is unlikely to be any worse than that of the average winter.

“This virus doesn’t have anywhere near the capacity to kill like the 1918 virus,” influenza virologist Richard Webby told the LA Times, referring to an influenza epidemic that killed up to 50 million people worldwide at the end of World War I.

“There are certain characteristics, molecular signatures, which this virus lacks,” Microbiologist and influenza expert Peter Palese told the newspaper.

“In particular, the swine flu lacks an amino acid that appears to increase the number of virus particles in the lungs and make the disease more deadly,” the LA Times added.

U.S. Congressman Ron Paul, who is also a physician, has issued a video statement denouncing the hysteria surrounding the so-called “pandemic”.

Paul notes that a false alarm over “swine flu” in 1976 resulted in twenty-five US deaths—not caused by the virus, but by the hasty vaccination program initiated by the government.  The deadly outcome resulted in a cancelation of the program.

Only Paul and one other congressman, also a doctor, voted against the vaccination program, Paul says.

“Here we are, once again, the swine flu coming up, and everybody’s panicking,” says Paul.

“We have had no deaths in this country,” he adds. “But there are seven or eight cases in New York.  None have even been hospitalized.  And yet it’s practically like we’ve been attacked by nuclear weapons.  I mean, press conferences over the weekend, prime item for the Department of Homeland Security…how did the Department of Homeland Security get into the medical business?  You know it just is totally out of control.”

Whatever the precise reason for the elevated death rate in attributed to influenza in Mexico, it increasingly appears that the majority of victims may have suffered from ordinary flu strains, not the exotic “swine flu” that, in any case, appears to be no deadlier than any other.

However, the government’s warnings have caused panic throughout Mexico, especially in the nation’s capital and in the city of San Luis Potosi, where a cluster of cases has been detected. 

Restaurants and other businesses have been required to shut their doors, masses have been canceled, and people have been warned to stay at home and avoid crowds.  The economy has suffered significantly.

Although people throughout Mexico City and other are wearing face masks to avoid infection, no one is wearing them in Mexico’s Secretariat of Health, according to the newspaper El Pais.  They acknowledge that face masks do little to protect the wearer, and that they are only being distributed by the government to calm people’s fears.

The panic has spread even to areas totally unaffected by the virus.  Despite the fact that not a single case of infection by the virus has been verified in the entire state of Jalsico, a substantial percentage of people are going about with face masks to protect themselves in the capital city of Guadalajara.

Related Links:

Scientists see this flu strain as relatively mild,0,3606923.story

Lessons From the Non-Pandemic of 1976

Ron Paul about the Swine Flu People die from the Vaccines not from The Flu