Swine Flu 2009, Victims of Paranoia
This morning I began digging a little deeper into the sordid world of infectious diseases, public health policy, and the “business of health,” and have solidified my belief that most of the media and governmental information on health is often distorted and misleading at best. Though I’m not one drawn to conspiracy theories, I think there is an inherent sense of superiority and need to protect and inform the masses while maintaining power and some degree of control over the population. Most Americans are educated no doubt, but perhaps our down fall is a bit of laziness. We like the headlines, the bullet points, the Cliffs Note version of information. Few read the fine print and information overload is everywhere. Determining what is real… or at least what is really important, is hard to find.
With the swine flu, aka H1N1, this is a great case in point. Without going into detailed virology, it is clear that this epidemic is just another excuse for the media to blow bad news out of proportion. More concerning is that the statistics being reported are not entirely accurate. Essentially there is no way to know how many cases of swine flu there actually are (or deaths due to it) because the testing used to determine who’s infected is not specific to this supposed new flu. H1N1 is the virus family that typically causes the flu in humans. The PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing that is commonly being used cannot determine conclusively that all of these cases occurring in Mexico, the US and elsewhere are actually the same “new” virus. The CDC claims that they are able to confirm the virus by genetic testing of the RNA in the virus, but this is not available for most collected samples. In other words, if a person has flu-like symptoms and tests positive for the flu virus, they are being counted as likely infected with swine flu, which of course really isn’t the swine flu, but simply the latest mutation-du-jour. Confused? You’re not alone.
The CDC’s web site states the following:
If reactivity of real-time RT-PCR for influenza A is strong (e.g. Ct <30) it is more suggestive of a novel influenza A virus. Confirmation as swine-origin influenza A (H1N1) virus is performed at CDC currently, but may be available in state public health laboratories soon. http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/specimencollection.htm
In other words, most cases are deemed positive or “confirmed” if they are positive using the standard H1N1 PCR testing, which is like saying that everyone who happens to have the untimely onset of a typical flu has swine flu. Of course some cases are being confirmed by the CDC, but since this isn’t standard practice during the normal flu seasons, we have no way of knowing if cases of this strain were already circulating. Given its relatively mild virulence, this particular flu wouldn’t be much different then any other. A couple of points to remember about the flu is that it is highly prone to genetic mutation and it typically kills about 36,000 per year (or at least is the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” in weakened/immuno-suppressed individuals). The CDC states:
36,000 people die from influenza-related complications each year in the United States. In addition, about 11,000 people die per year from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a virus that causes upper and lower respiratory tract infections primarily in young children and older adults. Most deaths caused by RSV occur in the elderly. http://www.cdc.gov/od/oc/media/pressrel/r030107.htm
Wikipedia describes H1N1 this way:
Influenza A virus subtype H1N1, also known as A(H1N1), is a subtype of influenzavirus A and the most common cause of influenza (flu) in humans. Some strains of H1N1 are endemic in humans, including the strain(s) responsible for the 1918 flu pandemic which killed 50–100 million people worldwide. Less virulent H1N1 strains still exist in the wild today, worldwide, causing a small fraction of all influenza-like illness and a large fraction of all seasonal influenza. H1N1 strains caused roughly half of all flu infections in 2006. Other strains of H1N1 are endemic in pigs and in birds. In March and April 2009, hundreds of laboratory-confirmed infections and a number of deaths were caused by an outbreak of a new strain of H1N1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H1N1
Again, remember that “new strain” simply means that there is a new flavor of human flu virus circulating that has been identified. Every year a random sampling (and then guessing) is used to determine the next season’s flu vaccine cocktail. Remember that genetic reshuffling is the rule when it comes to flu viruses, one reason that flu vaccine development is such a losing battle (for those who get the injection; it’s a sure-fire win for the drug companies that manufacture them).
So what is the moral of my story? As many other holistic minded individuals have pointed out, real immunity is natural immunity. It is developed over your lifetime, beginning in early life, but continues as you adapt to your environment. There are certain habits that can help and some that can hinder your ability to face the microbes. Most micro-organisms are harmless, and many in fact are essential for our own survival and good health. Protection against “bad” bugs out there is going to come from fostering your own immune competence. This includes what you eat & drink, how you sleep, your physical activity, and your exposure to chemicals that suppress health. Vaccines, Tamiflu, the government, drug companies, perhaps even your doctor can not protect you from disease. The most important factors are how you live, who you listen to, and what you believe. Hopefully they are based on love and truth.
For additional reading on this see: