Monday, April 27, 2009
Don't Buy the Swine Hype
If you’ve been watching the news, you would think that this new strain of the “Swine Flu” has caused millions of people to die, decimating whole towns and countries like the Black Plague from the Middle Ages.
But in reality, that's just not accurate.
As of Monday, 149 people have died from this virulent strain in Mexico. The United States had 40 confirmed cases in five states and the Director Of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, was on every cable news outlet pleading for people to not sneeze on anyone. Great advice, even if you’re not sick. It’s just disgusting and rude.
Outbreaks of diseases and biological agents are the stuff of great novels (The Stand by Stephen King) and movies (The Andromeda Strain, and Outbreak, to name two) but to start wearing one of those masks you see in an ER is ridiculous.
Pharmacies in some states are seeing a run on flu medicines and cold remedies. People are stocking up, in some cases hording, waiting to see how bad this new strain of “Swine Flu” could potentially be.
Some people who have gotten the strain of the virus and have recovered quickly; others say it’s not as bad as the “normal” flu, whatever that means. The most alarming piece to this new influenza puzzle is that it seems to attack and infect those with the strongest immune systems: 15-55 year old people.
Every year, people get the “flu” or “influenza.” According to the Center For Disease Control in Atlanta, last year over almost 26 thousand people were diagnosed with the virus. Don’t get me wrong; it’s serious, as people die every year from the flu.
But I am not ready to push the panic button yet like they did back in the mid-seventies.
Back in 1976, Gerald Ford made a decision that is still hotly debated today. When an Army Recruit at Fort Dix became sick and died from a strain of the “Swine Flu,” people panicked, gravely concerned about a plague that killed over a half a million people back in 1918. Could the same type of influenza cover the world, killing innocent people?
Gerald Ford imposed a mandatory inoculation of (at that time) all 220 million Americans, with a program that cost 135 million dollars.
To some, it was the pinnacle of the health and medical fields in United States history. The federal government made a series of public service announcements to alert people that the “swine flu” was not to be taken lightly and everyone needed to line up in an orderly fashion, receive their vaccination, and in doing so, save humanity.
But thousands of people didn’t die; whole towns weren’t wiped out. Some thought it was the greatest government infringement on their personal freedom. Some were killed from the rushed vaccines; others were severely crippled or paralyzed.
The Ford Administration said they erred on the side of caution.
I just remember it being called, “The Epidemic That Never Was.”