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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Sick of the H1N1 hype?

Posted by Dawn-Ann on November 7, 2009

If you’re like me, you’re getting seriously fed up with all the media hype about H1N1. I guess when the MJ hoopla died down they had to find something to rant about to sell papers.

As more and more friends and family get (and get over) the flu, I’m noticing that it’s really no more intense than a lot of other flus we’ve had in the past. Most are sick for a few days and that’s it.

So, why all the hype? Follow the money trail and you’ll see. Who stands to benefit from this so-called crisis? Well, from where I’m standing, it looks to be the media and the pharmaceutical companies that make the vaccines.

I stumbled upon a little blog post today that echos my sentiments. There are a growing number of us who are saying, “Wait a minute. This is stupid.” Davey Wavey is one of them. He did a little research and says, “…more than 20,000 Americans die of the flu each year anyway. And that’s from the days before H1N1.” Hello.

Read the rest of Davey’s blog post here. (Warning, some buff male bodies in the right-hand column. Let’s just say that Davey Wavey’s blog is not one you’d expect a straight, 50-something grandma to frequent. Hee hee…)

Comments

8 Responses to “Sick of the H1N1 hype?”
  1. Mark says:

    Actually…

    There is no “money trail”. Vaccines are not profitable. That’s why the US has chronic shortages. Because our entire profit care… erm, health care system is cash driven.

    The media is just being lazy. It’s easier to sit on one’s ass in front of a camera and blather about things than it is to do actual journalism.

    Behind the pandemic ignorance is a real problem. H1N1 has not been seen in our area of the world (at least) since about 1948 (ish). This means anybody 60 and younger has never been exposed to an H1N1 flu.

    That means *NO* immunity.

    See, usually, flu is rather mild because the strains that come ashore are variations on ones that have been here before. The population has various degrees of immunity to viruses to which they’ve been exposed before (and multiple times even, I’ve had flu more than once, you?).

    And we have vaccines. Well, to the best of our ability since we have to start working on them before we know exactly which flu bugs will wash up on our shores. But it’s a “best guess” by people who know what they’re doing. Better than nothing. And they’re right often enough to prevent a *lot* of deaths.

    Now, there *is* a mild strain going around. One doctor commented (forget where I read this) that it’s almost like there are two diseases out there. There may well be. Two strains that is. One mild, one you end up hospitalized.

    There is also that the plain old seasonal flu is here. At the same time. And without laboratory testing, we don’t actually know which flu is which. Doctors are being told to go by their best judgment rather than wait on a test. Lab confirmation is lagging behind (but the US has about 40,000 lab confirmed cases… so far).

    One of the worries is that all flu viruses mutate as they move through the population. It’s simple evolutionary reality. While the H1N1 we’re dealing with *now* is not turning out to be anything worse than seasonal flu, there isn’t any reason for it to *stay* that way.

    The great fear among the sane (not the hysterical hype types) is that H1N1 will mutate into a virus similar to the one that caused the 1918 epidemic. With *zero* immunity among the population 60 and younger, that would be devastating.

    The 1918 H1N1 killed millions. And young, healthy adults in the prime of their life. You know, athletic teens and 20somethings. The last people you’d expect to die from a flu.

    The low estimates are that, worldwide, the 1918 H1N1 killed 3% of the population. That would be about one million deaths in Canada. Nine million in the US. For comparison, all causes combined kill about 2.2 million people in the US each year.

    The high end of estimates for the 1918 H1N1 would put that figure up around 18 million dead from the flu in the US, 2 million dead in Canada.

    Worldwide? 200 to 400 million dead.

    (Keep in mind the combined US/Canada population is 333 million. A 1918 type epidemic would mean the equivalent of the entire US/Canadian population dead.)

    *That* is what is rattling the people who know what they’re talking about. We may well get by with a (relatively speaking) mild flu season. Or the virus is mutating into a deadly strain as we play on Facebook. We don’t know.

    What’s worse is the 1918 epidemic was *also* preceded by a mild outbreak. Then that same H1N1 came back and started killing.

    20,000? Try 20,000,000. That high end estimate of the deaths from the 1918 H1N1 would put the US/Canada deaths at about 20 million.

    In. One. Flu. Season.

    None of us have the experience of living through a serious flu epidemic. Anybody who was an adult in 1918 would be 109 now. In short, dead. So we’re used to think of flu as just a miserable disease that maybe kills elderly.

    Historically speaking, that’s not the rule. Flu has been a serious, devastating epidemic before. It could be again.

    Remember natives and small pox? They had no immunity. Never been exposed. We know how that turned out.

    Fortunately, the current vaccine has been found to be dead on. That is, it’s a match. If you can get it, GET IT. Run, do not walk.

    Sure, it could easily be a mild strain that’ll do squat.

    It *could* be mutating right now.

    We. Just. Don’t. Know.

  2. Dawn-Ann says:

    Well darlin’, I love ya dearly (and I greatly admire and respect your brilliant intellect), but we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.

    1) I have a friend who has a PhD in molecular biology and he says, “It’s a low-mortality virus (unless you have advanced diabetes, obesity, COPD, etc.) and the abject panic and vaccine demand surrounding it is, frankly, mystifying. …eat well, get enough sleep, wash your hands, and spend your time worrying about more important things.”

    2) The virus has run its course in the southern hemisphere and the resulting death and destruction was (yawn) less than impressive.

    3) Even if I *wanted* to get the vaccine I couldn’t. We’ve run out. The next batch will be solely for children under five. The batch after that will be for pregnant women. By the time they get to people my age the virus will have run its course.

    Having said, that, I suppose it is possible that it COULD mutate into something monstrous – in which case, will the vaccines be effective?

  3. Mark says:

    Dawn, I think you’re missing my point. Let me illustrate with hurricanes.

    Hurricane Ivan came at New Orleans on almost the exact track Katrina later did. We evacuated. And a whole new evacuation system was used for the first time with the inevitable bugs and snarls and such.

    Took me twelve hours to go 100 miles. And that was one of the *short* drives. It was a mess.

    Back home, winds never topped 30mph. It was, in short, breezy.

    Now, had people reacted with “Oh you people hyped Ivan” when Katrina was following the exact same track (she did, which was why at first *I* wasn’t all that worried) we would have seen a disaster far bigger than the one we saw.

    The “Hurricane Pam” disaster exercise predicted 60,000 dead from a Katrina like event. 60,000. We didn’t see anything like that. Because people took the threat seriously and got the hell out.

    Ironically enough, Katrina started a turn like Ivan. Just later than Ivan. Had she done so earlier, it would have been yet-another-Ivan.

    There were people that copped the “oh it’s a lotta hype” attitude. Many are dead. Others were stranded on their roof tops. A friend of my neighbor back there was trapped for five days in his attic, the only remaining dry spot, along with all the snakes and spiders and critters running for high ground. Yum!

    (He said it was a bit eerie. Critters that are normally mortal enemies left each other alone. Even the tiny brained critters seemed to have some sense of “this is BAD” :) )

    Anyway.

    The media is lazy. Hype is easy. No work involved, just babble at the camera. But, then, it *works*. People eat it up with a spoon. While, mind you, bashing the media for the hype (“Pass me some more swine flu hype will ya? Damn media!”)

    Then when the hype turns out to be hype, the media is quite happy to do the snarky, “Those eggheads think they’re so smart” right along with the ignorants eating up the bashing of people who didn’t create the hype to begin with.

    Round and round we go.

    Take Y2K. I was in the middle of that mad house. I swear, I was expecting them to start digging Cobol programmers up in the grave yard and offering them $100 an hour. It was *nuts*.

    People get snarky about Y2K. Uh, excuse me, WE FIXED IT GET IT?

    Oy.

    It wasn’t “a bust”. It was *averted*.

    Now, we will never know how bad it could have been had we just blown it off. It may have been a total non-event even if we’d done nothing. It *could* have brought down the banking system of Earth. We can’t go back and replay history to find out.

    Prevention is all we had. Assuming the worst was all we could do. It’s like air travel. You’re not going to “fix it” after the plane crash. You have to do what you can to *prevent* the crash. Because the crash is so catastrophic, prevention is all you have.

    And does the fact that your last flight didn’t crash mean crashes can’t happen? How is it we don’t do this with, oh, cars? I mean, millions of people have never had car wrecks. It’s just media hype. Like plane crashes. Boy, they really hype those!

    The fact that we’ve so far getting away with a mild H1N1 should be a relief, not a time to say, “wasn’t that silly?”

    Ask your friend to predict–with absolute certainty–that the October mutation of H1N1 is benign. I’m betting he won’t go there. Nobody would. It probably is. But who knows?

    Further, and again, the 1918 epidemic–which was deadly–was preceded by a mild outbreak. Seeing a mild outbreak tells us nothing about how virulent this one will become. Or not. Or whatever.

    And what does the experience of the Southern Hemisphere tell us? It tells us they had a mild outbreak. That’s pretty much that. It tells us pretty much nothing about where our flu season is going.

    Which, by the way, has just begun. Mild or otherwise, we’re just at the beginning of our normal “flu season”. We’re not even at the peak. Not even for plain old seasonal. And the cases of flu in aggregate are going up at a startling rate. Check this graph out from the CDC:

    http://cdc.gov/h1n1flu/images/graphs/ili43_graph.gif

    Best case scenario is a nasty flu season. Worst case is… uh… dunno.

    Look at it like hurricanes. I *could* have said, “Oh pish tosh, what a buncha hype, they said that about Ivan too.”

    Well, they did. And nothing happened. So, obviously, Katrina was a non-event. Nothing but hype?

    So what the media is hyping it? They’re non-experts with an economic incentive to hype. They are irrelevant. In *both* directions. The hype and the bashing of the hype they created. The virus is not watching CNN and checking to see what it should do.

    “Having said, that, I suppose it is possible that it COULD mutate into something monstrous – in which case, will the vaccines be effective?”

    Dunno.

    But it’s all we got. And I’d hazard that given vaccines provoke an immune response for the purpose of–call it–training the immune system to recognize a type of virus, it would confer some degree of immunity to Type A H1N1 viruses in general. And some is better than zero. Which is what we have now.

    My entire point is people are *still* paying attention to the hype. Even going at this with the attitude of “it’s hype” is paying attention to the hype *over* the science.

    Briefly:

    1) It’s low mortality now. Next week it will be… dunno. Probably mild. Panic? No, that’s for people who need to get a life. Rent one if necessary. And turn the TV off. Learn to read.

    But the vaccine? Yes. Some immunity of any amount is better than none. Regardless of what kind of flu this turns out to be.

    I wasn’t panicked and fearful of seasonal flu and I still went and got the shot. Flu is awful. I’m playing the odds that the experts who know what they’re doing made educated guesses of which bugs were coming and got them in the vaccine. It was all of $25. That’s $25 a year to increase my chances of a flu free winter. This is panic?

    This is “throwing away” two trips to a burger joint. :)

    (Well, when I go fast food, I splurge. I rarely eat the junk but once in a while you just want comfort food. :) so we’re talking lotsa overpriced crap here. ‘Specially fries. I go nuts over fries. :))

    It’s going to cost me the same for the H1N1 vaccine. Which vaccine is showing itself to be effective (per the CDC). Which means worst case is I’m out two Taco Bell trips to avoid catching that flu. Which we think my brother’s household was recently hit by and the whole course of flu misery lasted about nine days.

    Yuck.

    It was mild enough it could have been a seasonal, not H1N1. Only lab testing would tell for sure what exactly it was. But it was, either way, Not Fun.

    Besides.

    Suppose this is the mild outbreak before the bad one? Suppose the 2010 season is the H1N1 from hell? 2011? Or to the pleasure of the kunspirsee freaks, 2012!

    Immunity lasts. The elderly–who are the only ones who have been exposed previously to an H1N1 of any kind–are seeing a very low infection rate this time round. 60 years later, their immune systems are recognizing *this* virus.

    I’ll have an order of immunity thank-yew-very-much. You get fries with that?

    (By the way, the fact that exposure to a whole other H1N1 60 years ago has conferred a healthy degree of immunity to a segment of the population makes me suspect that the current vaccine is worthwhile even if the virus mutates. Unless it pulls some Sci-Fi “end of the world” mutation but we’re all toast anyway if that happens. :))

    We’re talking disaster prep here. Sure, Ivan turned. But Katrina didn’t. So preparation is what? Hype? Pointless? What?

    I said briefly. Apparently, I lied.

    2) Yeah. And?

    You know that the nation of India spent years rejecting overtures from Japan to build an Indian Ocean tsunami warning system? Because, you see, tsunamis were a “Pacific Ocean problem” and they weren’t gonna fall for the hype.

    Then the Indian press blamed *US* for not warning them about the ’04 tsunami.

    Well, not *all* of their press but at least one paper got a *very* *nasty* email from yours truly. :)

    The experience of the Southern Hemisphere is instructive but not predictive. That’s just not a gamble *I* willing to take. No more than I was willing to take Ivan as predictive of Katrina despite the fact that Katrina was taking the same track.

    3) That sounds wrong. You should double check whoever told you that. The H1N1 is only just now arriving. I don’t see how something that is just shipping can be already out.

    We *are* pretty much out of the seasonal. Maybe someone has the two confused. The first H1N1 doses are being used for the very young and pregnant women. Because they’re just the initial shipments. Austin, for example, only got about 1,200 doses in the first shipment. They’ll only give it to pregnant women and kids up to 24 months.

    And flu season is only getting started. It actually runs to April. In the 15 flu seasons from 91-06, 11 peaked in January or February. We could be two to three months from the peak. Four to five months from “run its course”.

    Here, in Texas, the first widely available shipments are expected sometime this month. I doubt Canada is “out” of something that’s just now arriving. I bet somebody has the vaccines confused. Seasonal is pretty much gone and there won’t be any more made this year. H1N1 is just getting here.

    Look, I don’t do “hype”. I don’t pay *ANY* attention to “the media” on this subject. I read the CDC and Effect Measure. I want the *real* information. Not chattering heads with nothing better to do all day.

    What *I’m* getting is cautious relief. Not, “oh weren’t we silly?”

    You know, I just don’t know how many times we said, “we dodged a bullet” back in New Orleans. Then came the day we got hit…

  4. Mark says:

    Boy, do I need an editor or what?

    Yeesh…

  5. Mark says:

    By the way, on the issue of “money trails”:

    “This is not Ehrenreich’s attempt to hold the Obama administration blameless. Far from it. She points out that trusting in the word of Big Pharma, who wouldn’t have bothered with a flu vaccine if they didn’t think governments would give them a guaranteed market and with such a guarantee didn’t even have to bother to invest in any new technology, using eggs as they have done for half a century. Slow, tricky, inefficient, but who cares when you can invest capital plant in erectile dysfunction drugs?”

    http://scienceblogs.com/effectmeasure/2009/11/barbara_ehrenreich_on_the_swin.php

  6. Dawn-Ann says:

    LOL – love the erectile dysfunction quote. Mark, you slay me. I really think you need your own blog. Some good stuff here but I’m just not up to a debate – too much else going on in my life right now. We’ll see how it all plays out. If I suddenly stop showing up on Facebook you’ll know I was one of the casualties. It’s been fabulous knowing you! (hee hee…) XOXO

    PS – the Canadian press article was really interesting!

    PPS – I’m *really* glad you survived Katrina, darlin’.

  7. Mark says:

    Meh. The probability this one will turn into something horrific is low. The probability it will turn into something so virulent, we couldn’t handle it is also low (as in, it could turn virulent but still be manageable, we are more advanced than we were in 1918 after all).

    But I get really riled when the media gets away with blaming the scientists for the media caused hype. It’s not good for any society to bash its brightest and engender public apathy. At some point, inevitably, some flu is going to hit that is going to be deadly. It will happen. And if the public is pushed to snarky apathy by the idiot chattering head class, it means people will die.

    In the mean time, my allergies have decided to give the flu a run for its money in the misery quotient. I’m wearing a “breathe right” strip when I’m awake to unstop my nose a little. Even the *dogs* are sneezing.

    (No, I’m *serious*.)

    It was only *after* I moved here that I learned Austin is called “the allergy capitol”. Lovely. I mean just ducky.

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