Tuesday, Oct 27th, 2009
On Friday I stood before an audience in Phoenix, Arizona and attempted to shock them with something similar to a repeat of Orson Welles’ War Of The Worlds radio broadcast, a 1938 Halloween night radio announcement that said, in a series of news bulletins, Martians had landed on the earth. The public cowered in fear then, even when Welles announced it was just a radio drama, not reality.
The contrived crisis I created was the President of the United States had just announced a national emergency because of a massive number of deaths attributed to a fast-spreading strain of flu virus that had combined with a mortal form of flu virus. My hand was shaking as I read the announcement. People in the audience thought it was real. The audience began to squirm and wonder, before I finished my melodrama, just how they were going to return home without having to undergo forced vaccination at the airport.
They were relieved when I told them this crisis was purely fictional. I added the announcement for just such a contrived crisis was probably already programmed into the President’s teleprompter. Little did I know how true these words were to become.
To my surprise, on the afternoon of the following day (Saturday), the President of the United States had indeed declared a national emergency due to 1000 reported flu deaths, 100 of them among children. These deaths had occurred over the past eight months.
But 1000 accumulated deaths would be far fewer than the mortality figures the Centers for Disease Control distributes – estimated at 36,000 annual flu deaths. Federal health authorities lump pneumonia deaths among the elderly with flu-related deaths to falsely inflate flu mortality figures. My own guesstimate is that only about 6000 flu-related deaths actually occur each year, but even using this figure for comparison, this year’s flu outbreak appears weak. An estimated 20,000 hospitalizations have been reported since this pandemic flu strain began in March of 2009, which amounts to only about 625 hospitalizations per week spread among more than 5 thousand hospitals.
Earlier in the week CBS News reported that, five months after this unique strain of the flu had begun to spread in Mexico in March of 2009, the H1N1 pandemic flu strain only comprised 1–2% of the flu viruses in circulation by July. Yet there were massive preparations being made for a major flu pandemic without sufficient justification. Today the Centers for Disease Control says the H1N1 pandemic flu strain represents 99% of the flu cases that are typed laboratory confirmed. Just exactly which numbers are correct, if any, now come into question.
According to CBS News, only 11 million doses of flu have been administered, with millions more to arrive late, sometime in mid-November. Time Magazine reports about 30 million available doses, so that could mean up to two-thirds of the currently available vaccine is going unused.
A reimbursement crisis, not a health crisis
A follow-up report, published in the Sunday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle, says the emergency declaration issued by The White House has more to do with Medicare and Medicaid regulations dealing with hospitals. With the national emergency declared, hospitals have more flexibility to set up separate or even outdoor treatment areas.
The emergency appears to deal more with hospitals and their ability to get paid by federal health authorities. An article in the New York Times confirms that federal rules do not allow hospitals to establish treatment areas more than 250 yards from emergency rooms. “Tents are 300 yards or more away, typically federal dollars won’t go to pay for treatment.”
So the emergency appears to be financial – making sure hospitals meet federal requirements so they can get paid by Medicaid or Medicare, rather than any true health crisis.
The San Francisco Chronicle article said “White House officials were quick to note that the emergency declaration does not signify an increase in severity of the national H1N1 outbreak.” But the article kept referring to all the deaths, when there appear to be fewer mortal cases of the flu in the past 8 months than prior flu seasons.
Journalists and health officials sound more duplicitous as they attempt to explain the need for the emergency declaration. Here is how the San Francisco Chronicle described it:
“Art Reingold, head of epidemiology at UC Berkeley, said the declaration doesn’t mean that the national outbreak is ‘any worse than it was yesterday or last week’.”
“It’s difficult to get the right message across to people,” Reingold said. “There’s this balance between the flu is important and people should be vaccinated, but you don’t want an overreaction.”
But once again, according to federal officials, there is little or no vaccine available.
Civil liberties threatened?
An article in the Christian Science Monitor (ASM) was more concerned that such a contrived emergency could be a veiled way to overrun civil liberties. The ASM article quoted Harold Relyea, a specialist in national government with the Congressional Research Service, who said:
“When the President formally declares a national emergency, he may seize property, organize and control the means of production, seize commodities, assign military forces abroad, institute martial law, seize and control all transportation and communication, regulate the operation of private enterprise, restrict travel and, in a variety of ways, control the lives of United States citizens.”
Few news sources were critical of the declared emergency, but expect more reporters to express skepticism over its need and to question its intent.
An article in the New Hampshire Union Leader said: “But the way the U.S. government has been handling the new flu strain, technically named H1N1, has been less than reassuring.”
What to do now?
Misdirection, overreaction and lack of preparedness by public health officials is a clear indication to the public that they cannot totally rely upon potentially problematic vaccines or anti-viral drugs to defend themselves against the flu.
An ignored approach to controlling infectious disease is to address the immune status of the population. The public should utilize bona fide immune boosters such as vitamin D and vitamin C, and take nutrients that are documented to reduce the duration and severity of the disease which include vitamin E, the trace mineral selenium, the sulfur compound NAC, and elderberry.
In 2005 researchers in Rome, Italy wondered what backup treatment could be used in the event vaccines were unavailable or were ineffective against a fast mutating flu virus that had developed resistance to vaccines or anti-viral drugs like Tamiflu or Relenza.
Flu viruses require a host cell to replicate. The Italian researchers report that resveratrol, known as a red wine molecule, completely blocks entry of flu viruses into the cell nucleus in animals at a human equivalent dose of ~70 milligrams. [Journal Infectious Disease 2005 May 15; 191(10):1719–29] So the virus would enter the lungs, antibodies would still be generated to produce long-term immunity, but the virus could not duplicate into millions of daughter virions as it normally does. Resveratrol works on closing the cellular doorway rather than destroying the virus itself. Therefore it is a totally non-toxic approach to control of influenza viruses. Furthermore, resveratrol does not provoke viral resistance.
In contrast, anti-viral drugs like oseltamivir (Tamiflu) allow viruses to enter cellular machinery to produce copies of the flu virus and then inhibits their exit from the cell via inhibition of the enzyme neuraminidase. So host cells are flooded with copies of the virus. This approach is not ideal as it can lead to drug-induced side effects which have been widely reported.
This article was posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 5:00 am