Posted by MataHarley on 29 April, 2009 at 8:39 pm. 10 comments already!


Despite the evidence of dimishing cases in Mexico, and only 1,311 of the 2,498 believed to be sickened in that nation remaining in the hospital, WHO’s Director, Margaret Chan, decided to rachet up the hype by raised the pandemic alert to Phase 5, calling a global outbreak “imminent”.

WHO Director General Margaret Chan declared the phase 5 alert after consulting with flu experts from around the world. The decision could lead the global body to recommend additional measures to combat the outbreak, including for vaccine manufacturers to switch production from seasonal flu vaccines to a pandemic vaccine.

“All countries should immediately now activate their pandemic preparedness plans,” Chan told reporters in Geneva. “It really is all of humanity that is under threat in a pandemic.”

Adding to the fear mongering is newly appointed U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, predicting the lone death in the world outside of Mexico… a Mexican toddler with underlying health problems”, visiting relatives in Houston… would not be the last death from the virus.

Per a SeattlePI report on the 2 year old:

The state’s health director, Dr. David Lakey, at an Austin news conference, called it “highly likely” that the boy contracted the disease in Mexico before his trip to the U.S.

Officials in Brownsville are trying to trace his family’s trip to find out how long they were in the area, who they visited and how many people were in the group, said Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos.

The boy, who was 23 months old, had “underlying health issues” before he flew to Matamoros, Mexico, on April 4 and crossed into Brownsville to visit relatives, state health officials said.

He developed flu symptoms four days later and was taken to a Brownsville hospital April 13 and transferred the following day to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, where he died Monday night.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday confirmed that he had been infected with the swine flu virus. The cause of the death was pneumonia caused by the virus, Cascos said.

Health officials insisted the boy posed no contagion threat to Houston. He had no contact with other patients at Texas Children’s Hospital and none of the staff was exposed, said Dr. Jeffrey Starke, the hospital’s director of infectious disease.

This case “shouldn’t trigger any undue alarm in the community,” Starke told a news conference. “The child did not acquire the virus in Houston, Texas.”

The family was given antiviral treatments. Dr. Brian Smith, regional director of the Texas Department of State Health Services, noted that any secondary cases would have appeared by now…. there have been none.

As of this writing, 10 nations have had cases ID with the virus, but no deaths outside of Mexico. Egypt, with not one case reported, has been slaughtering pigs as a precaution.

In the US, cases have been reported in 11 States, and the number “surged” (I kid you not… “surged” is what the AP writer said in the Seattle account) to 100.

Considering that, according to the CDC statistics on their site, 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu; more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related complications; and about 36,000 people die from flu-related causes, it seems counterproductive for Chan to urge vaccine producers to turn away from seasonal flu vaccines, dropping everything to address a virus that appears to be running it’s course without the large fatality numbers. But logic doesn’t seem to be playing into the WHO’s PR campaign.

While officials are stressing the community doesn’t need to be alarmed, Sebelius – perhaps needing a big start to her career – can be heard about 1:40 min into the below video, gravely predicting more US deaths. Or would that be deaths of visiting Mexican nationals in US hospitals? Hard to figure..

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Simultaneously Janet Napolitano is insisting that closing the Mexican border is without merit.

“Closing our nation’s borders is not merited here,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano at a mid-afternoon briefing, echoing comments she made earlier in the day while being pressed by senators at a hearing.

She said closing borders or U.S. ports would have enormous adverse economic consequences and would have “no impact or very little” to help stop the spread of the virus.

“This virus is already in the United States. Any containment theory … is really moot at this time,” Napolitano said.

The POTUS? He vows “vigilence”… Not sure what his definition of vigilience is, but if it’s akin to his protests of being clueless to where his Air Force One #2 plane was when it was buzzing Ground Zero in NYC, count me unimpressed with his staff communication.

But in a moment of rare praise for his predecessor, he credited the Bush admin for stockpiling 50 million doses of antiviral meds. I think he should add additional praise for Bush not taking the path of Gerald Ford, and setting out to immunize the nation in a panic.

Now we wait to see if Obama and his staff are astute to history.

What with Sebelius’s doom ‘n’ gloom, and Chan’s insistance that a vaccine be found pronto, I again find my mind wandering back to 1976 and Fort Dix, and the panic that also launched a hasty immunization program in the event of an anticipated pandemic. A summary of the consensus of thought? Prevention…

ACIP recommended that an immunization program be launched to prevent the effects of a possible pandemic. One ACIP member summarized the consensus by stating “If we believe in prevention, we have no alternative but to offer and urge the immunization of the population.” One ACIP member expressed the view that the vaccine should be stockpiled, not given.

Making this decision carried an unusual urgency. The pharmaceutical industry had just finished manufacture of the vaccine to be used in the 1976–1977 influenza season. At that time, influenza vaccine was produced in fertilized hen’s eggs from special flocks of hens. Roosters used for fertilizing the hens were still available; if they were slaughtered, as was customary, the industry could not resume production for several months.

On March 13, an action memo was presented to the Secretary of the Department of Health Education and Welfare (DHEW). It outlined the problem and presented 4 alternative courses of action. First was “business as usual,” with the marketplace prevailing and the assumption that a pandemic might not occur. The second was a recommendation that the federal government embark on a major program to immunize a highly susceptible population. As a reason to adopt this plan of action, the memo stated that “the Administration can tolerate unnecessary health expenditures better than unnecessary death and illness if a pandemic should occur.” The third proposed course of action was a minimal response, in which the federal government would contract for sufficient vaccine to provide for traditional federal beneficiaries—military personnel, Native Americans, and Medicare-eligible persons. The fourth alternative was a program that would represent an exclusively federal response without involvement of the states.

The proposal recommended by the director of CDC was the second course, namely, for the federal government to contract with private pharmaceutical companies to produce sufficient vaccine to permit the entire population to be immunized against H1N1. The federal government would make grants to state health departments to organize and conduct immunization programs. The federal government would provide vaccine to state health departments and private medical practices. Since influenza caused by A/Victoria was active worldwide, industry was asked to incorporate the swine flu into an A/Victoria product to be used for populations at high risk.

After high level meetings with “well-known and respected scientists (Albert Sabin and Jonas Salk had to be included) and public representatives” (aka, politicians), President Gerald Ford made an ill fated decision to launch The National Influenza Immunization Program.

After the necessary hoops thru Congress and legislation, and appropriation of $137 million for costs, the US government set to work to get every man, woman in child in the US vaccinated.

In what could be considered divine intervention, this plan was crippled by two events. First, the private pharmeceutical manufacturers wanted the government to guarantee immunity from litigation for adverse reactions before releasing the vaccine. The Government capitulated. But still many elderly died after receiving the initial vaccinations.

Between Oct 1 and Dec 16th, 40 million “volunteers” received the vaccine. From the Suburban Emergency Management Project’s historic review:

Then President Ford, on the same March 24, 1976, only one day after his surprise loss to Ronald Reagan in the North Carolina Republican presidential primary, announced on national television his recommendation to the American public for a crash nation-wide influenza vaccination program to include “every man, woman and child.” Congress responded promptly to the president’s call for funds (appropriations were voted by the Senate April 9, by the House April 12, and signed into law April 15, 1976). Vaccine was produced, field tested, and evaluated in April, May and June. There were problems with producing the vaccine.

Nevertheless, between October 1 and December 16, 1976, the U.S. Public Health Service, through state and local public health department “public sector providers,” rapidly spread out among the citizenry to successfully vaccinate 85% of 40 million voluntary vaccinees in 10 weeks (the other 15% of the 40 million voluntary vaccinees received their vaccinations from “private sector providers”). There was great variation among states in vaccinating their citizenry. For example, a skeptical New York City held off on vaccinations, preferring to wait for a shred of evidence that a pandemic was materializing, whereas always dutiful Minnesota immunized two-thirds of eligible adults.

It was a Minnesota physician that noticed his patient who contracted an ascending paralysis, called Guillain-Barré syndrome, following swine flu immunization. By then, physicians utilizing the vaccine were distributing taped discussions of it’s side effects.

When all was said and done, there was no pandemic and the rushed vaccine wasn’t necessary. This after 532 cases of vaccine-related Guillain-Barré syndrome, and at least 25 deaths occurred on otherwise healthy individuals.

The hasty interference by government was not long on many.

One observer of the swine flu affair, Dr. Russell Alexander of the Public Health School at the University of Washington, expressed his view that the clinical side of medicine had been shortchanged in the decision making processes. He told federal investigators after the fact: “My general view is that you should be conservative about putting foreign material into the human body. That’s always true…especially when you are talking about 200 million bodies. The need should be estimated conservatively. If you don’t need to give it, don’t.” (P. 13)

Indeed, Sencer ignored the case for “watchful waiting” before proceeding with the vaccination program, even though no swine flu had shown up anywhere, not even in the southern hemisphere where flu season was reaching its peak. Even Sabin, who had earlier advocated universal vaccination, later argued for stockpiling the vaccine and, if a pandemic began, to keep ahead of the spread by vaccinating quickly. He called this stockpiling “active, not passive, not mere warehousing of vaccine.” Proper measures, he said, included both planning and training of volunteers ready to immunize their neighborhoods the moment CDC should pass the word. (**, p. 11)

Sencer (and Salk) said “No!” to this idea, saying that the flu would move too fast in a pandemic. Vaccine should be stored in people, not warehouses!

The quotes from the above article at SEMP were in Feb, 2005. Why? They saw the repeat of such decisions evident in attitudes towards an “imminent” avian bird flu – the fear mongering that was all the rage in that era.

Today’s hype is met with the same caution and warning by SEMP… or, as they put it today, we’re about to be taken on another wild ride. They have reposted their sister article to the one about the 1976 NIIP disasters, What is the Swing Flu?

Swine flu (also called swine influenza, or simply, flu) is an acute respiratory disease of pigs (also called hogs or swine) caused by a tiny spheroid virus that belongs to the Influenza A virus group. Symptoms of swine flu in swine herds include fever, inactivity, nasal discharge, labored breathing, mouth breathing, and paroxysmal coughing when the pigs are moved. All ages are susceptible. Mortality rates are generally low and pigs recover within 5 to 7 days after initial symptoms.

It appears that most reasonably healthy humans also live through the virus. Like the common cold that still has no cure, it simply has to run it’s course, and the infected – plus those in their proximity – must take normal precautions.

But is this enough to demand attentions are divered from R&D of seasional flu vaccines – which kill in the tens of thousands without Chan and Sebelius saying a word – for this vaccine? Tell you what… *I’m* not volunteering…

I guess I had it right in my previous post… let no crisis go to waste.

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