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The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

Posted October 20, 2009 4:45 PM by Steve Melito

In January 1976, a 19-year old solider died of pneumonia at Fort Dix, New Jersey. U.S. Army Private David Lewis was just one of many recruits afflicted by respiratory illness, but the cause of his pneumonia wasn't the Victoria virus, the dominant cause of human influenza since 1968. Rather, David Lewis' death was attributed to an unknown, a virus which the U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) predicted would kill one million Americans in 1976.

"There is evidence", warned HEW Secretary F. David Matthews, that "there will be a major flu epidemic this coming fall". Matthews' bold prediction, delivered just a month after Lewis' death, reflected the darkest fears of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. There, scientists had determined that the unknown virus from Fort Dix was the "swine flu", an acute and highly contagious respiratory disease of swine that was thought to be caused by the same virus behind the 1918 influenza pandemic.

According to Richard E. Neustadt and Harvey V. Fineberg, authors of The Epidemic That Never Was: Policy-Making and the Swine Flu, the government's concerns were four-fold. First, David Lewis and several other soldiers from Fort Dix hadn't been infected through contact with pigs. Rather, they were the viral victims of human-to-human transmission. Second, because the swine flu had confined itself to pigs since the 1920s, only Americans older than 50 years old "would have build up specific antibodies from previous infection".

Younger Americans had some immunity to the then-dominant Victoria virus, of course, but the swine flu was different. Third on the list of the CDC's concerns was that the Fort Dix virus bore different surface proteins, or antigens. Such an "antigenic shift" would, as Neustadt and Fineberg write, "negate any resistance" that might otherwise protect healthy segments of the U.S. population. Finally, the government worried that weakened immune systems would be susceptible to bacterial pneumonia, the immediate cause of Army Private David Lewis' death.

Underlying the CDC's concerns was the belief that "pandemics follow antigenic shifts as night follows day" – and that these changes occur approximately once every 10 years. As evidence, public health officials pointed to antigenic shifts in 1946, 1957, and 1968 and the influenza pandemics that followed.

This time, the pandemic had come early – or had it?

Editor's Note: Click here for Part 2 of this multi-part series.

Resources:

http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=swine%20flu

http://blogs.consumerreports.org/health/2009/04/the-swine-flu-epidemic-that-never-really-was-1976-swine-flu-outbreak.html

http://www.salon.com/env/feature/2009/04/28/1976_swine_flu/

http://www.amazon.com/epidemic-that-never-was-Policy-making/dp/0394711475

http://www.sagepub.com/upm-data/5071_Yin_Chapter_1.pdf

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Anonymous Poster
#1

Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 2:41 AM

Hmm...

At thirty dollars a shot a whole lot of money was made in 1976. If you recall the swine flu-shot was administered to our military departments, everyone got a shot and civilians could too but most didn't.

On average yearly more people die from consequences of the flu-shot than from the flu....and my greatest question is, high school biology taught that a virus couldn't couldn't be treated with a vaccine because viruses constantly change...

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 5:21 AM

please name your sources

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Anonymous Poster
#14
In reply to #2

Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 12:49 PM

The CDC

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#16
In reply to #14

Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 1:42 PM

Nonsense. I've subscribed to the CDC and to the Canadian Flu Watch newsletters for years. Nowhere is it mentioned mortality increases with vaccinations. Yes, there have been complications but the same can be said of those who are intolerant of aspirin (my wife being one).

BTW...it's been 30 yrs since I ate junk food and I still got the virus. In my opinion, anybody who tries to sell a homeopathic or likewise remedy for this affliction is actively engaging in a deception and should be prosecuted.

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#17
In reply to #16

Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 2:22 PM

Note: The article below was written in early 2005. On December 10, 2005, the British Medical Journal published a report acknowledging the veracity of this article by substantiating the claim that CDC flu death figures are completely bogus, hyper-inflated to scare the public and sell more flu vaccine.

Every year, just prior to the impending "flu season," the CDC opens with false claims regarding annual flu deaths. The CDC asserts that 36,000 people die every year from the flu. Such scare tactics are calculated to increase flu vaccine sales. However, according to the CDC's own official records documented in National Vital Statistics Reports, only a few hundred people die from influenza (flu) on an average year. And many of these deaths occur in people with preexisting conditions, weakened immune systems, and the elderly. For example, in 2002, 753 people died from the flu. The year before, in 2001, just 257 people died from the flu. (Fifty-nine percent of these deaths occurred in people 75 years or older; 75 percent occurred in people 55 years or older.) To put these numbers in perspective, 3,454 Americans died from malnutrition in 2001 -- 13 times greater than the number of flu deaths! That same year, there were 4,269 deaths attributed to asthma, a condition some studies have linked to vaccines.

To rationalize this discrepancy between the true number of deaths caused by influenza every year (as documented in the CDC's own National Vital Statistics Reports) and the outrageously exaggerated bogus number of flu deaths promoted by the CDC, officials claim that flu often leads to pneumonia and that many deaths from pneumonia are really deaths caused by flu. Apparently the CDC has a secret formula for estimating how many pneumonia deaths (officially listed in the CDC's own National Vital Statistics Reports as deaths from pneumonia, not flu) are really deaths caused by flu. Adding to the confusion, influenza is caused by a virus; pneumonia is caused by bacteria. The CDC's own website takes great pains to emphasize their differences. More importantly, the CDC has a pneumonia vaccine. So why doesn't the CDC promote their pneumonia vaccine? In 2002, 65,231 people died from pneumonia; in 2001, 61,777 people died from pneumonia. If everyone took a pneumonia vaccine, especially the elderly and others most susceptible to the disease, wouldn't they be protected? Why is the CDC promoting a flu vaccine to protect against pneumonia, especially when one disease is caused by a virus and the other by bacteria? Also, how many people who died from pneumonia received a flu vaccine? How many received a pneumonia vaccine?

Flu "experts" often guess wrong. For example, in 1994 they predicted that Shangdong, Texas, and Panama strains would be prevalent that year, thus millions of people were vaccinated with a flu shot that contained these viruses. However, when winter arrived, the Johannesburg and Beijing strains of influenza circulated through society. The vaccine was ineffective. This happened again in 1996, and again in 1997. More recently, the vaccine created for the 2003-2004 flu season contained flu strains that did not circulate through society that year. Officials were once again forced to admit that millions of people were vaccinated with an ineffective vaccine. Yet, flu fatalities did not increase during these years. For example, in 1996, 857 people died from the flu; in 1997, 745 people died from the flu -- typical annual numbers.

The most up-to-date information
on influenza and the flu vaccine
may be found in the book:
Vaccine Safety Manual

http://www.thinktwice.com/vsm.htm

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#18
In reply to #17

Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 2:40 PM

Also, how many people who died from pneumonia received a flu vaccine? How many received a pneumonia vaccine?

If you've read the CDC you will have read that the virus and resultant pneumonia bacteria are connected. You'll also have read that there are many types of bacteria that induce just as many types of pneumonia. In other words, not all pneumonia inducing bacteria are alike. Conversely, neither the are the viral strains that induce pneumonia.

I'm betting they got it right this time.

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 3:48 PM

Admission to hospital increased the chance of contracting pneumonia bacteria too, happens to too many that are admitted without flu.

Just can't get a break now a days, but nutrition that's of real importance...

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#20
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Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 5:17 PM

This particular hospital had isolation rooms with separate exhaust vents. I was whisked away and registered from inside one. Everybody who came close to me wore a surgical mask. As for me, this was the first time in 30 yrs since needing emergency care.

Since the Sars epidemic hit Toronto many hospitals here have focused on isolation areas. Judging by my own demise I'd say it was money well spent. Unfortunately the first doctor misdiagnosed me and consequently exposed a lot of the nursing staff before I had a chance to put on a mask....so yes, in that vein you're absolutely correct.

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#21
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Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 5:42 PM

The hospitals here have triage centers at the entrances to effect what you described.

I've been using soluble nutrition supplements a while now and I don't get sick anymore PTL! And others whom have used this product for many years have some neat testimonies of recoveries uncommon to the medical establishment.

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#22
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Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 6:19 PM

I know people who are also on supplements and they claim likewise. One I know had serious sinus problems that nothing other than supplements seemed to control.

As for myself, I've been rather scrupulous with my diet and activities. We have a small, well composted 2 acre market garden/greenhouse I started as a hobby. The garlic seems to be the predominant choice amongst family and friends.

What I object to is the charlatanism I find is nothing less than somebodys' attempt at a well conceived deception in order to fill their own pockets. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/10/13/Dr-Oz-Helps-Shill-the-Flu-Vaccine.aspx go to the end and click on the link......you'll see what I mean.

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#23
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Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 6:39 PM

another Oprah tonic...goes down smooth but the gas is horendous...

Don't miss the next episode of "dora the explorer"

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#29
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Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/22/2009 9:21 AM

Guest-

I read your referenced articles. I think you are splitting semantical hairs. The referenced articles say that most of the people listed as flu deaths actually died of pneumonia brought on by the flu. I don't why the distinction is so important to you. Whether the flu kills you outright or disposes you do die of a secondary cause the result is the same and the root cause is the same.

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#30
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Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/22/2009 2:22 PM

The squeaking wheel gets the grease...

I appreciated the post as I reasoned advising my parents to get a pneumonia shot and use nutrition and lots of fluids to combat the flu.

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#26
In reply to #16

Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/22/2009 12:13 AM

In my opinion, anybody who tries to sell a homeopathic or likewise remedy for this affliction is actively engaging in a deception and should be prosecuted.

Perhaps I'm biased because my wife is in school learning alternative health care; but, I have to retort that most doctors are actively engaging in deception and should probably be prosecuted as well. Doctors (at least in this country) are no longer engaged in the business of maintaining the body; they are instead in the business of prescribing treatments (mostly drugs) that have specific effects in relation to specific symptoms, this is not curative. For diagnostics and trauma care it is almost certainly true that a good western doctor is the best thing for you, but this is not the case when you look at caring for the body because they don't do it anymore. Treating the body requires seeing the body as a whole and modern medical doctrine treats the body as a group of seemingly independent systems. The body is a complex set of interconnected systems and a dysfunction in one system may manifest as symptoms in a separate 'unrelated' system. Our current trend of blocking symptoms (like pain)allows dysfunctions to continue unchecked rather than spending the time to hunt out the true cause. "no symptoms = no problems"... BULLPUCKY!!! I don't blame the doctors, at least not primarily, I blame the insurance companies (especially their accountants and lawyers) who no longer allow doctors to operate any other way because they used math to determine what treatments are least likely to have negative financial impact to their share-holders rather than medical knowledge to determine what treatment is best for the individual patient. I know too many people (myself included) who have been mis-diagnosed or suffered from the effects of 'preventative' measures to blindly accept the absolute superiority of 'modern' medicine when it comes to caring for the body.

Proper nutrition does strengthen your immune system, and many foods and 'herbs' have been clinically shown to have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties and to dismiss these benefits out of hand is irresponsible. To be specific, I don't hold much stock in 'homeopathic' remedies, this is (in my opinion) the 'fluffiest' brand of alternative medicine out there and not one I'm prepared to entrust my health to; however, there are many other methodologies using the same core knowledge that do have significant, demonstrable effect. Much, if not most, of modern pharmacology started out as a plant that some half naked hillbillies somewhere in the 'jungle' have been using effectively for hundreds or thousands of years before some pale pink guy in funny clothes showed up to 'run it through the lab'.

No, taking an herbal flu preventative won't guarantee you won't get the flu, but neither does vaccination (believe me, I know). And please remember that there is a huge difference between that pretty bottle up on the shelf that miraculously 'cures all with all natural herbal ingredients' and the herbal remedies painstakingly constructed by trained herbalists to treat specific issues for specific individuals.

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#27
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Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/22/2009 5:11 AM

I'm all for informed choice but, speaking for myself, as a layman only. My own immediate experience was to question one doctors diagnosis and I'm glad I did. To do so was simple enough. Everything else wasn't. To find a competant doctor while extremely ill meant I had to sign out of the hospital, find a competant one and then get signed back in again. For that I owe a gratitude of thanks to the nursing staff (and the redhead force of nature I married).

I agree with you that herbology is indeed the mainstay of much of todays medicinal research. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Evans_Schultes I also believe there are many who are engaged in good works by virtue of their nature and not the dictates of insurance companies and lawyers.

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#31
In reply to #27

Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/22/2009 2:33 PM

I've been there. Unfortunately I didn't have the redhead, I might have gotten an accurate diagnosis 7 years earlier if I had...

There definitely are good doctors out there practing in good faith; I think I found one, though even he is prone to jumping on the pill train, for that I blame the average american patient who seems to believe too strongly in 'better living through chemistry.'

I apologize for my gross over-generalization, you inadvertently hit a little close to home and I actually wrote a much longer rant... then, on proof-reading, I realized I was a frothing maniac and deleted half of it.

Good luck and good health!

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#32
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Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/22/2009 4:42 PM

Likewise to each and all............

thanks

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#33
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Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/23/2009 9:06 AM

There may well have been an inordinate number of off-topic posts in this discussion, but I, for one, have found them all, almost without exception, to be interesting, informative and quite useful. Thanks to one and all.

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#13
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Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 12:45 PM

Knee-jerk anti-government rants have no place in this discussion, and I am very glad to see that the rest of the posts take this issue seriously. I have asthma, my wife has lung damage from scoliosis, and we have two college age sons (vectors) living at home. We are taking this very seriously, and plan to get the vaccine as soon as it is available here, hopefully in the next week or so.

The local (non-profit) hospital where my wife works has stockpiled massive quantities of masks, gloves, respirators, and anti-viral drugs. They are taking it very seriously. Apparently some of the for-profit hospitals in the area have had less foresight, and are already running out of supplies.

I do hope the 'guest' in the first post doesn't have any children.

And duckinthepond, I hope you have had a full recovery.

Looking forward to the next installment.

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#15
In reply to #13

Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 1:08 PM

Not anti-government just anti-hype.

Everyone do be vigilant and indulge in nutrition, keep your body functions capable in the face adversity. The average nutritional intake of north Americans is less than adequate to maintain true healthful balance. Following the package directions as to serving size guarantees only a minimum of the nutrition necessary.

Pay strict attention to your health because without it you are done...

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#3

Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 7:59 AM

As one who was recently hospitalized for H1N1 I cannot urge enough for everybody to be extremely vigilant of the symptoms. Any shortness of breath should indicate an immediate trip to the emergency room. Being relatively healthy (I'm an outdoors type) I ignored those symptoms in the belief that 'it's nothing'. After two days the shortness of breath disappeared for a day only to return with a vengeance. The result was that, without warning, I stopped breathing......or rather that the muscle that controls my breathing refused to work (one feels one's skin tighten on the face when this happens). Fortunately I was in the company of a fellow who uses a bronchdilator and I attribute his quick actions that saved my life.

This thing hits incredibly fast. The 'other' symptoms (chills, temp etc) are relatively mild.

Sorry Moose, I know it's a bit off topic but I thought it needed saying.

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#5
In reply to #3

Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 8:52 AM

Quite all right, Duckinthepond. (In fact, I gave you a "good answer" for your comment.) Hope that you're feeling better now. Please feel free to share more as you see fit.

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#7
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Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 9:44 AM

Thanks Moose

The only other thing I can say is what I learned from the doctor(s). The first had a disdain for anything human and diagnosed me with COPD (I don't have COPD). The lack of medication for a single day led to severe complications.

The second doctor prescribed prednisone and an anti-biotic for the resulting pneumonia. Two types of bronchodilators were also prescribed...one for immediate rescue, the other a long lasting variety. Two weeks into it I'm just beginning to recover.

From what I understand the H1N1 virus is a trigger for a specific type of pneumonococcal bacteria. I've been told that the relationship between the two is rather complex. I've also understood that the 2007- 2008 H1N1 (which I had a mild dose of) is a receptor/trigger for this one resulting in the bodys immune system to 'overload' with the new infection. This lulled me into a false sense of security thinking I was immune to H1N1.

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#9
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Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 10:07 AM

PS....the use of prednisone retards the bodys natural immune system allowing the anti-biotics to take effect.

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#8
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Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 10:05 AM

Thanks for your input Duck. I also gave you a "good answer" rating. I DO have COPD and I especially appreciate your mentioning the symptoms to be particularly aware of. I hope more people get the word and remain vigilant.

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#11
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Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 10:55 AM

Be extremely vigilant Fobus. With COPD you are at a high risk. Getting it and survivng it is a blessing in disguise....though, in retrospect, I would have preferred the vaccination.

I've never missed a day of work due to illness (except to go fishing) and now, due to a misdiagnosis, I'm laid up for what looks to be a months' duration.

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#4

Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 8:27 AM

Why wait until next week? Seems a leisurely pace

for such vital information.

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#6
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Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 8:57 AM

Thanks for your question, Guest. Blogger is just one of the many "hats" that I wear, so the delay is a matter of being able to find the time to write Part 2.

Hopefully, you'll come back to the site and register. One of the best reasons for doing so is that you can subscribe to a discussion (like this one). That way, you can be notified automatically when Part 2 does go live.

Best,

Moose

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#10

Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 10:41 AM

Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R.May in their book Thinking In Time,The Free Press, 1988, Chapter 3 Unreasoning from Analogies, discuss the 1976 Swine Flu "Scare" at length and how many factors, including some political, helped drive President Ford's actions. Specifically, David Spencer, Director of Center for Disease Control, wrote an "action memorandum" for the Administration in March 1976, near the end of the flu season, that listed several presumptions and hypothesis (I'm quoting here):

  • Major Shifts in viruses occur on eleven-year cycles (1957, 1968)
  • The January Fort Dix episode may be just three years early
  • Past shifts were followed by pandemics
  • The absence of new outbreaks proves nothing
  • "Widespread" swine fly is a "strong possibility" in 1976-77
  • This flu might hit young adults as hard as old (as in 1918)
  • With effort, there is "barely enough" time to produce vaccine for "all"
    • and get it into them before next winter
    • By methods short of direct Federal administration
    • with no legislation needed except money
    • and in lieu of stockpiling...
  • The political presumption was "The Administration can tolerate unnecessary health expenditures better than unnecessary death and illness, particularly if a flu pandemic should occur."

Having been one who "survived" the 1976 "pandemic" in spite of not being vaccinated, I may be susceptible to dismissing this event in 2009 as a media drive scare. Is the 1976 scenario playing out again in 2009? No, I think not. Several of the presumptions and hypotheses that failed to play out in 1976 have already been seen, particularly the virulent nature of this year's disease, the ease at which it can spread, and how susceptible children and young adults are to its effects. The media may be over-hyping it a bit, but I do not think that efforts to vaccinate the public are politically driven nor are they as driven by unfounded fear as was the case in 1976.

My son is currently at home with an unconfirmed case of H1N1. It is amazing to see how easily this virus can knock a runner in great shape on his behind.

By the way, while Thinking In Time may present some unique arguments on topics ranging from the Cuban Missile Crisis to Martin Luther King, Jr, and all things in between, it is a bit boring and does not come highly recommended by me.

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#12
In reply to #10

Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 10:58 AM

In Canada the officials are not bothering to confirm it anymore. The symptoms I mentioned speak volumes.

Hope your kid gets well soon.

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#24
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Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 7:30 PM

Thanks, Duck. He's resting comfortably and seems to be handling the illness well. He doesn't like being called "bacon" though.

In Virginia the doctors will not actually test you for H1N1. Instead they test you for influenza type A. If you are positive for A then they will say that you most likely have H1N1 as Type A is not going around right now. Only the State Health Dept can test for H1N1 and they aren't testing anyone that is not admitted to a hospital. So, although my son has all the symptoms of H1N1, the best the doctors can say is that he probably has it and if he's not better in five days to take him to the hospital. You have to love that.....

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#25
In reply to #24

Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/21/2009 10:36 PM

Five days sounds about right. I got clobbered on the 6th.

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#28

Re: The Epidemic That Wasn’t (Part 1)

10/22/2009 8:46 AM

No vaccines are absolute, but since I'm immunosuppressed my doctor keeps me up to date on all the major ones, including flu and the most common variety of pneumonia.That one is good for 5 years. I spend a good deal of time in schools and seldom get anything in that environment. I do carry hand sanitizer and use it quite a lot. I do worry about the opportunistic infections in hospitals though.

Hospitals keep stats on infection rates so I recommend you check those before you decide what hospital to go to when you're ill.

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