Originally published in Blogcritics Magazine, 30 April 2009
Copyright © R. Kossover, 2009
This is a developing story, and from the standpoint of news, the who, what and where of what I write here will be outdated by the time it is published.
I learned about the swine flu while sitting in the doctor's office on Monday, 27 April 2009, looking at a commuter paper called yisraél hayóm, Israel Today. The front page displayed a headline in Hebrew, "Security [Defense] Minister: 'We will handle the swine flu!'" This is the typical bragging style of Security Minister Ehud Barak.
Inside the newspaper was a map of the world showing where cases of swine flu had broken out as well as the locations of suspicious cases, the ones in Europe which have since proved to be swine flu.
Mexico, where pork is an important food, led the list with over 60 dead (this was Monday's paper) and at that time there were cases in the USA, Canada, New Zealand, and -- wouldn't you know it -- one case here in Israel, in Netanya, where the pork-eating Russian immigrants abound. Apparently there is a price to be paid when you have an achin' for bacon, one that goes beyond heart attacks and high cholesterol. Another case was reported Monday on the 12:00 Voice of Israel radio news and was confirmed to be swine flu by health officials here.
According to Alex Jones reporting on Saturday, a doctor at a Mexican hospital sent an e-mail to the BBC, telling them that the real number of deaths from the pig flu was over 200 (as opposed to the then-reported 60). It wouldn't be a surprise to discover that the Mexican government was massaging the numbers in reporting the number of dead. The Egyptians and Pakistanis did the same when the bird flu was killing their people a while back.
But the really interesting data came at the Recombinomics website, which reports that this is evidently a human-to-human variation of the H1N1 virus, mixed with the H1N1 swine flu virus; very similar, in other words, to the 1918 Spanish Flu.
On YouTube there were also various video updates from the BBC, from stations in the States and elsewhere, all talking about the severity of the swine flu in Mexico (over 150 deaths reported) and how the swine flu is attacking young and healthy people.
In addition, there was a conspiracy type "video" -- actually a podcast with no pictures that could be seen. The narrator explains in some detail about viruses and flu virus generally, and how it his belief (reflected on the Alex Jones video as well) that this virus is being released slowly into the population by the government, and that what is going on right now is really a "pre-pandemic" situation, a test, in other words. The narrator notes a key bit of data: that the flu season is over, and yet this flu is spreading. He observes that when the flu season, October until April, hits, this flu will hit as a pandemic.
Taking the "conspiracy" angle out of this podcast and treating this as a natural event, the information reflects this raw footage from WPXI, a TV station in Pittsburgh, PA, of an interview with Dr. Henry Niman of Recombinomics. This is a video I strongly suggest you watch.
There are some essential points to be understood here. The first is that the World Health Organization (WHO) has a rating system for pandemics, running from Levels 1 to 6, with Level 6 being a sustained pandemic. According to Dr. Niman, the WHO reworked the definitions of these levels a year or two ago, saying they would not go upwards from Level 3 unless they saw a sustained pandemic with human-to-human transmission. In effect, the WHO eliminated Levels 4 and 5, but did not discard them publicly. According to the video, the WHO raised the alert level from 3 to 4 on Monday, 27 April 2009, meaning that they believed that there was a sustained pandemic going on.
The second point to understand is that this virus is traveling quickly through transit hubs and it is a waste of time to shut national borders - although according to an Alex Jones caller located in northern Mexico, just such a thing was being attempted in that country, with the northern states closing their borders to the southern and central states, where infections were highest. The reporter doing the interview with Dr. Niman expressed the thought that what was going on was the barn door being shut after the horse had gone.
The third point, related to the second one, which needs to be clearly understood is that the tracking of this swine flu is trailing the actual infections. By the time someone is tested for any of this, it is probably a month or so too late.
Dr. Niman cited the fact that the first infections showed up in Mexico in March, but the deaths didn't start to come until mid to late April. This means that while there have been no fatalities yet in the United States or Europe, as time progresses, there will be. When asked by the reporter from WPXI if this wasn't an alarmist view, Dr. Niman replied that if one reads the reports of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and WHO carefully, one sees the same facts presented, but packaged in such a way as not to cause a general panic. Indeed, when looking at this report from WPXI, we learn that Dr. Donald Burke, Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh, is spearheading the formation of a group to deal with the flu when it does show up in the Pittsburgh area. According to Dr. Burke, the threat the swine flu poses is “big enough that we’re going into emergency mode and putting together a task force.”
According to the report at the WPXI website, the swine flu task force held its first meeting on Tuesday afternoon, 28 April 2009, and Burke is now planning a public meeting of city officials to which residents can come and address any concerns they may have.
According to Dr. Niman, what we are seeing is a replay of the 1918 flu pandemic with an early breakout in spring and summer, and a severe return during flu season, starting in October. The CDC website has an article, "The 1918 Influenza: the Mother of All Pandemics" From the article:
In the 1918–1919 pandemic, a first or spring wave began in March 1918 and spread unevenly through the United States, Europe, and possibly Asia over the next 6 months[...]Illness rates were high, but death rates in most locales were not appreciably above normal. A second or fall wave spread globally from September to November 1918 and was highly fatal. In many nations, a third wave occurred in early 1919. Clinical similarities led contemporary observers to conclude initially that they were observing the same disease in the successive waves. The milder forms of illness in all 3 waves were identical and typical of influenza seen in the 1889 pandemic and in prior interpandemic years.
n retrospect, even the rapid progressions from uncomplicated influenza infections to fatal pneumonia, a hallmark of the 1918–1919 fall and winter waves, had been noted in the relatively few severe spring wave cases. The differences between the waves thus seemed to be primarily in the much higher frequency of complicated, severe, and fatal cases in the last 2 waves.
So, put simply, the big question here is "will the swine flu return in October?"
According to Dr. Niman, the swine flu strikes at those whose immune systems are strongest, appears as a typical case of the flu and then turns into what he termed "atypical pneumonia;" this is what has been killing those who have died from the swine flu. Tamiflu, the vaunted drug of choice against this disease, will not work according to Dr. Niman. A new vaccine will have to be found. The good news is that if there are a lot of cases of swine flu, there will be lots of samples to look at to see how the virus mutates, evolves and recombines. The bad news is that in emergency conditions, governments will enact triage conditions, and deal only with the serious cases.
As for surviving this flu, according to medical authorities, there are certain basic precautions to be taken:
1. Frequent hand-washing. This most basic tool of hygiene can save your life.
2. Stay away from crowds and places where this flu can be transmitted.
3. Stock up on medicine, canned goods and water to
reduce the need to be where you can catch the flu.
4. Stay away from pork, particularly raw uncooked meat. If you do eat pork (or any meat for that matter) make sure it is cooked to a kill temperature of at least 175 degrees Fahrenheit or 85 degrees Celsius.
And last, but certainly not least, if you have religious belief, pray.
Stay safe - stay alive.