The 1976 swine flu outbreak at a army base really caused a great panic in America.That’s probably why President Obama is saying that Americans should be “concerned” instead of “alarmed” by the current international swine flu outbreak.Here’s the latest from CNN:
“The World Health Organization has raised its pandemic alert level in response to the outbreak of swine flu that originated in Mexico, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Monday.The move from level three to level four on the WHO’s six-level threat scale means the world body has determined the virus is capable of significant human-to-human transmission — a major step toward a flu pandemic, said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the agency’s assistant director-general.A pandemic is not considered “inevitable,” Fukuda said.
But Napolitano said the move “does indicate that we have a serious outbreak of swine flu on our hands.”At least 75 cases have been confirmed worldwide, including 40 cases in the United States and 26 in Mexico, the WHO said.Hundreds more cases are suspected, especially in Mexico, where as many as 149 deaths are thought to have been caused by the virus, the country’s health secretary said.
“Sadly, 149 people have died, of which we are working to confirm if they are linked to the swine flu,” Mexico Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova Villalobos said. “The number of cases, unfortunately, will continue to increase.”
So far, 26 cases have been confirmed by laboratory tests in Mexico and reported to the World Health Organization. Nearly 2,000 people have been hospitalized and 776 remain in hospitals, Cordova said.The U.S. government is urging travelers to avoid nonessential travel to Mexico because of the swine flu outbreak, and it has started distributing antiviral medications from its strategic stockpile in response to the outbreak, Napolitano said.
The confirmed cases in the United States have been mild so far but, “Scientists can’t tell us right now why this is presenting so severely in Mexico City and not as severely up here,” she said.Federal officials confirmed 20 new U.S. cases on Monday.A federal official said they were at the same school in New York in which eight U.S. cases were confirmed earlier. More than 100 students at the school were out with flu-like symptoms last week.
The outbreak is a particular concern because of who it is hitting hard, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday. “We are concerned that in Mexico, most of those who died were young and healthy adults,” he said.
President Obama said Monday that the swine flu outbreak is a “cause for concern and requires a heightened state of alert,” but is not a “cause for alarm.”He added that the federal government is closely monitoring emerging cases and had declared a public health emergency as a “precautionary tool to ensure that we have the resources we need at our disposal to respond quickly and effectively.”(End of Excerpt) Read the full report here.
Here’s more on the 1976 swine flu scare from capitalcentury.com:
The ominous name of the flu alone was enough to touch off civilian fear of an epidemic. And government doctors knew from tests hastily conducted at Dix after Lewis’ death that 500 soldiers had caught swine flu without falling ill.
Any flu able to reach that many people so fast was capable of becoming another worldwide plague, the doctors warned, raising these questions:
Does America mobilize for mass inoculations in time to have everybody ready for the next flu season? Or should the country wait to see if the new virus would, as they often do, get stronger to hit harder in the second year?
Thus was born what would become known to some medical historians as a fiasco and to others as perhaps the finest hour of America’s public health bureaucracy.
Only young Lewis died from the swine flu itself in 1976. But as the critics are quick to point out, hundreds of Americans were killed or seriously injured by the inoculation the government gave them to stave off the virus.
According to his sister-in-law, John Kent of President Avenue in Lawrence went to his grave in 1997 believing the shot from the government had killed his first wife, Mary, long before her time.
Among other critics are Arthur M. Silverstein, whose book, “Pure Politics and Impure Science,” suggests President Gerald Ford’s desire to win the office on his own, as well as the influence of America’s big drug manufacturers, figured into the decision to immunize all 220 million Americans.
Still, even the partisan who first branded Ford’s program a fiasco, says now that it happened because America’s public health establishment identified what easily could have been a new plague and mobilized to beat it amazingly well.
To understand the fear of the time you have to know something about the plague American soldiers seemed to bring home with them after fighting in Europe during World War I.
The Great Plague, as it came to be called, rivaled the horrid Black Death of medieval times in its ability to strike suddenly and take lives swiftly. In addition to the half million in America, it killed 20 million people around the world.
It got its name because it was a brand of flu usually found in domestic pigs and wild swine. It was long thought to have come, like so many flus, out of the Chinese farm country, where people and domestic pigs live closely together.
Recent research has shown, however, that the post-WWI flu was brought to Europe by American troops who had been based in the South before they went to war. Medical detectives, still working on the case in the 1990s, determined that a small group of our soldiers took swine flu to Europe and that it spread to the world from there.
How the swine flu got to Fort Dix in 1976 still hasn’t been tracked down. At the time, Dix military doctors knew only that a killer flu had made it to the base and that they were lucky more men hadn’t died or been sickened seriously.
Weeks after Lewis died, doctors from the Centers for Disease Control and other federal public health officials were meeting in Washington, trying to decide if they should recommend the government start a costly program of mass inoculations.
One doc later told the authors of “The Epidemic that Never Was” that he and others in on the meetings realized there was “nothing in this for the CDC except trouble,” especially because a decision had to be made fast to get the immunizations manufactured by the fall.
“…The obvious thing to do was immunize everybody,” the doctor said. “But if we tried to do that … we might have to interrupt a hell of a lot of work on other diseases.”
The doctors knew they faced complaints if the epidemic broke out and vaccines weren’t ready, as well as criticism if they spent millions inoculating people for a plague that didn’t happen.
“As for ‘another 1918,’ 1 didn’t expect that,” the doctor continued in the book. “But who could be sure? It would wreck us. Yet, if there weren’t a pandemic, we’d be charged with wasting public money, crying wolf and causing all the inconvenience for nothing … It was a no-win situation.” (End of Excerpt) Read the full article here.
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