H1N1: my online diary

When the “swine flu” outbreak that started in Mexico City last March to April 2009 started looking like it was going to spread to other countries, I was wondering how the international health community and the media would deal with it. Would it be a reasoned approach or would they stir up hysteria?

In a recent Washington Post article, European nations are accusing the World Health Organization (WHO) of exaggerating the danger of this virus and possibly being in bed with vaccine and drug manufacturers.

I monitored the outbreak carefully through 2009 and into its virtual media disappearance after the New Year.

I originally wrote about swine flu on April 25, 2009 where I introduced readers to the symptoms and at what point emergency medical care might be required. I believed that the dissemination of this information was important and responsible.

Soon after this I talked about the antivirals, Tamiflu and Relenza, which are now household names, as possible prevention and treatment for this fast-spreading, yet mild virus.

But I watched with interest as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American media created a monster out of this virus. Even the US Congress was chiming in about how critical swine flu was.

As the hysteria was being produced at a rapid pace, May 3, 2009 I offered up “my thoughts” on the swine flu situation. Here I pointed out things that were happening that were in my opinion “going too far”; the WHO’s raising of alert levels, the banning of importation of pork in some countries, and just the sensationalizing and creating of a “crisis” by health officials and the media.

On July 25th of last year I wrote about a lecture given by a professional virologist who in my opinion told the real concern. This virologist was not politically-motivated scientist from Atlanta or Geneva, but a scientist concerned only about the “potential danger” of mutation with the very dangerous H5N1 bird flu. Finally I found someone who told of the real danger of this mild virus.

Numerous times the WHO said the virus wasn’t mutating, which was the real concern, but the hysteria continued. Would we have enough vaccine and when would it be available were the pressing questions that concerned most people.

Then US President Barack Obama declared swine flu a “national emergency” in the fall of 2009. In an October 26th piece, I described what a national emergency entailed and questioned its justification. A national emergency can include seizures of property and communications and even martial law, but we barely heard a peep out of the Congress or the media. This is America, and very, very few people questioned this act by the President. This is the land of liberty, isn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong, as a microbiologist I also saw the real dangers of H1N1 in certain populations and wrote about these whether it is pregnant women or the neurologic symptoms seen in some children.

After the New Year, after the nations of the world had stocked up on enormous amounts of H1N1 vaccine, there was an almost overnight disappearance of media and government attention to this mild flu virus which just a few short months earlier was considered as some horrible plague.

On February 11, 2010, I wrote a piece about this on the news and opinion web site, “Desk of Brian”. Here I talked about the WHO, the CDC, the vaccine manufacturers, et al and their roles in turning the world upside down for 2/3’s of a year by creating unnecessary panic and hysteria.

So I found it ironic that the Washington Post can out with their June 4th 2010 article. I’m glad others are seeing truths, half-truths and non-truths that went along with the swine flu pandemic.

I just hope we’ve learned our lesson and be more reasoned and thoughtful the next time a biological epidemic occurs.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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