The H1N1 virus, also known as "Swine Flu", has a lot of folks concerned this flu season. Heated controversy exists over how dangerous the H1N1 virus is, the media attention it is receiving, and what treatment is safe and appropriate.
According to the Center for Disease Control, seasonal influenza virus (the "flu") infects between 5-20% of the American population each year. This results in approximately 200,000 hospitalizations related to the flu, and approximately 36,000 flu related deaths each year.
To put those figures in perspective, I'll use the 5% infection rate and the CDC's figures for recognized hospitalizations and deaths to provide the most grim results for the average flu season. Using a US Census report from 2008 listing the US population at 304,059,724, five percent would be 15,202,986 people who contract the flu. This would mean that the 200,000 people who require hospitalization for the flu represents only 1.32% of the total infected cases. The total number of deaths from the flu then represents only 0.24%, less than a quarter of a percent of the total number of infections.
Of course, using the higher percentages in the 5-20% range would make the final figures for hospitalization and fatalities much less. The actual numbers are probably even less than that, considering many people never bother to contact a doctor when they come down with the flu.
Enter swine flu onto the flu season stage. The swine flu does not infect humans every year. It is an additional strain of influenza that occasionally mutates and becomes infectious to people. Depending on the news source, some claim it is more deadly than the regular flu, while others vehemently assert just the opposite is true. A quick google for "death rates of swine flu" produced figures varying from 10% to a mere 1 in 10,000. However, there seems to be a link between death from verified H1N1 cases and secondary infections or other existing health problems. In other words, the vast majority of people who have died from confirmed swine flu also had something else wrong with them.
Is H1N1 something to be concerned about?
There doesn't seem to be a clear answer. It has been declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, but pandemic does not automatically equal "deadly pandemic." Interestingly, doctors' offices and hospitals are no longer even testing for H1N1 unless the patient requests one and is administered at the patient's expense. This is why I made it a point to notate "confirmed" cases in the above section. Patients are still tested to determine if a flu strain is either an "Influenza A" or Influenza B". Both the regular flu and H1N1 are type A. But, routine testing ends there.
Mainstream media networks have latched on to each incident of suspected swine flu cases. It makes for dramatic, "stay-tuned" broadcasting. They have no way to verify if such cases were the seasonal or swine flu, and spend a great deal of time promoting the swine flu vaccine.
This lack of thorough testing, when compared to the media hype over swine flu danger, sends a mixed message. One would assume that obtaining a proper diagnosis would be the first step in determining the proper treatment and associated risk. If the health risk presented by H1N1 is as great as the media and government agencies claim, then wouldn't it be imperative that health care providers also collect proper data on H1N1 infection rates?
A hastily prepared vaccine has been rushed to the market, and special priveleges granted to protect drug companies from any litigation stemming from injury from the vaccine. Many people are concerned over drastic measures to encourage taking the vaccine when there is still so much debate over how serious, or not, the H1N1 virus actually is. Some states are trying to make the vaccine mandatory for certain groups, such as health care workers in New York, threatening, "take the vaccine or lose your job." Other states, Like Massachusetts, are considering sweeping legislation (MA Senate Bill 2028) that would permit government agents to enter a person's home without a warrant, accompanied by armed police, seize personal property and real property, as long as the health agent claims it is necessary to prevent disease. While the bill does not "technically" make vaccinations madatory, those who do not receive it are subject to isolation or quarantine and a $1000 per day fine.
Back in the 1970's, there had been another outbreak of swine flu. A vaccine was also cranked out in record time that the government highly recommended everyone receive. Many people had a severe reaction to the vaccine, Guillaine-Barre syndrome. This condition paralyzes the body, including the lungs. While some have recovered, many others have been left permanently paralized, and unfortunately, some died. The new vaccine is made similarly to the one from the 1970's.
I am not a doctor, but from the research I have done, I will not get either the seasonal or swine flu shot. I do not think that there has been enough research on either vaccine to prove it is safe, and I do not wish to expose my unborn child to the heavy metals used as preservatives in the vaccines. If MA Senate Bill 2028 passes, we will leave the state until the declared emergency is over rather than have an untested medication forced on us. I would prefer to limit my risk of catching either flu, and handling any symptoms at home naturally.
Next Blog Entry: How To Fight The Flu At Home
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