Friday, May 01, 2009

An inconvenient truth: "Swine flu is less dangerous than regular flu."

After a friend of mine came down with a severe dose of some kind of terrible flu and I nursed him back to health, guess what happened next? Yeah, I got sick too. Really sick. "OMG, now I've got swine flu!" I whined -- in between trips to the bathroom.

But in my more lucid moments, I managed to do some research on the subject (as we all know, Google is the poor man's health insurance). Just how serious IS swine flu? I know that I am feeling like heck-warmed-over right now, but let's put this thing into perspective. According to my friend Joe Thompson who loves to send me statistics, within one year in America over 61,000 people will die of pneumonia. One out of every 20 who contract pneumonia will die. And since January of this year alone, over 1,300 people have died from ordinary flu. But only one person has died from swine flu.

Great. Now we have put this so-called pandemic into perspective. But does that make me feel better? No. So I trudged off to the local ER to get treated for swine flu -- or not. And they gave me a face mask as soon as I walked in the door. "Do you get many swine flu patients here?" I asked the triage nurse.

"Actually no," he replied. "We get several people a day coming in with flu symptoms and we test them, but so far no one has tested positive." There were only eight people in the waiting room and only two of us had been handed face masks. It's hard to breathe with this on.

Then I sat around the waiting room for an hour and watched a History Channel segment on gangs. "It's all about protecting the lucrative drug trade," said the TV. "They're going to do whatever they can to keep the money flowing in." In case you might be wondering why swine flu is being hyped as this horrible death machine but pneumonia, a proven killer, is not? Could it be "all about protecting the lucrative drug trade" -- and keeping the money flowing in at all costs?

Then I saw the doctor, described my symptoms to him and whimpered a bit more. He said to take Pepto Bismo, stay hydrated, eat healthy and wait it out.

"Flu is a virus then?"

"Yes. There have been several anti-virals developed to combat HIV that might be used to treat it, but mainly you just wait it out." I didn't know that. "And just in case you do have swine flu, remember that swine flu is milder than regular flu." I definitely did not know that!

"But do I -- or do I not -- have the swine flu?" I asked. So the doctor pulled out some sterile swabs and took samples from my nose.

"We send them off to the State of California for testing and you'll know the results in a few days. It might be five days because of the weekend." If this is really a super-emergency, five days is a long time! Plus if this is really a national crisis, then why aren't the state lab guys working on weekends? "And if you do have swine flu, they'll come to your home and ask you who you have been in contact with and try to figure out how you got exposed to it. There is a seven-day incubation period so it would have to have been someone you have been around approximately seven days ago."

Then I went home and drank plenty of liquids.

After undergoing this bit of involuntary research on flu symptoms, I have been forced to come to the painful conclusion that this whole swine flu pandemic scare is both a hype and a hoax -- and that our media, our politicians and corporate America have failed the American public yet again in their efforts to scare us into giving them our money, just like what happened in Vietnam and Iraq, and in the savings and loan debacle and the AIG bailout.

America is a democracy ruled by us? What democracy? Apparently we are being played like a fiddle. Again.

PS: Regarding "protecting the lucrative drug trade," Dr. Joseph Mercola, medical consultant on CNN and ABC News, has this to say:

"According to the World Health Organization's Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response site; as of April 27 there are:

109 laboratory confirmed cases in U.S. -- 1 death (reported by CDC as of April 30)
26 confirmed cases in Mexico -- 7 deaths
6 confirmed cases in Canada -- 0 deaths
1 confirmed case in Spain -- 0 deaths

Additionally, nearly all suspected new cases have been reported as mild. Personally, I am highly skeptical. It simply doesn't add up to a real pandemic. But it does raise serious questions about where this brand new, never before seen virus came from, especially since it cannot be contracted from eating pork products, and has never before been seen in pigs, and contains traits from the bird flu -- and which, so far, only seems to respond to Tamiflu. Are we just that lucky, or... what?

"Your fear will make some people VERY rich in today's crumbling economy. According to the Associated Press, at least one financial analyst estimates up to $388 million worth of Tamiflu sales in the near future -- and that's without a pandemic outbreak.

"More than half a dozen pharmaceutical companies, including Gilead Sciences Inc., Roche, GlaxoSmithKline and other companies with a stake in flu treatments and detection, have seen a rise in their shares in a matter of days, and will likely see revenue boosts if the swine flu outbreak continues to spread. As soon as Homeland Security declared a health emergency, 25 percent -- about 12 million doses -- of Tamiflu and Relenza treatment courses were released from the nation's stockpile. However, beware that the declaration also allows unapproved tests and drugs to be administered to children. Many health and government officials are more than willing to take that chance with your life, and the life of your child. But are you?

"Remember, Tamiflu went through some rough times not too long ago, as the dangers of this drug came to light when, in 2007, the FDA finally began investigating some 1,800 adverse event reports related to the drug. Common side effects of Tamiflu include:


All in all, the very symptoms you're trying to avoid. More serious symptoms included convulsions, delirium or delusions, and 14 deaths in children and teens as a result of neuropsychiatric problems and brain infections (which led Japan to ban Tamiflu for children in 2007). And that's for a drug that, when used as directed, only reduces the duration of influenza symptoms by 1 to 1 ½ days, according to the official data."

PPS: I just got my letter to the editor published in the Berkeley Daily Planet! Now I'll be famous for sure! AMAZING PLACE

Editors, Daily Planet:

I went to the April 22 Berkeley City Council meeting to see if I could snag some of that Obama stimulus package money for Savo Island Cooperative Homes, the South Berkeley housing project where I live. And as I sat there for over two hours while waiting my turn to ask for money to repair my home, I was forced to listen to speaker after speaker, all of them asking the council for money. And after listening to all these speakers describe all kinds of projects geared to make people’s lives better and realizing how many of these helpful and wonderful projects are funded by our city, it suddenly hit me. Berkeley is truly an amazing place.

Some of the worthwhile groups helped out by our city are a foster agency called A Better Way, Lifelong Medical Care (they fixed my teeth!), the Berkeley High School Bio-tech program, Berkeley Boosters police athletic league for kids, Strawberry Creek Lodge senior housing, BOSS assistance programs for the homeless, an Alzheimer’s center, a program to help deaf children, I forget what all else. If you had sat there for over two hours, you would have been amazed too.

Earlier this week, I had gone to a People’s Park anniversary event, and had thought to myself, “Those days are long gone. Berkeley just isn’t like that any more.” But after listening to all the wonderful people speaking up for their wonderful groups that help all sorts of people here in Berkeley, I suddenly realized that Berkeley hasn’t changed all that much after all.

Berkeley is still a wonderful, caring place—a place that takes great pains to make sure that those in need are taken care of and that we Do The Right Thing. I was very proud of my city tonight.

Jane Stillwater