Friday, October 30, 2009

When Pigs Fly: Swine Flu stokes my inner conspiracy theorist.

(Apologies in advance to Occasional Professor Tom)

Today, pharmaceuticals giant Sanofi-Aventis announced some very healthy profits. Which weren't quite so healthy when you consider how they got them (nor were the $1 billion windfall of fellow pharma-giant GlaxoSmithKline)

They, along with a few other pharmaceutical conglomerations, are finding their coffers swollen by the bulk-purchase of millions of doses of 'Swine Flu' vaccine - 75 million doses to the United States alone.

The H1N1 'Swine Flu' crisis has been bandied about all year. Just as we thought we were reaching the end of the hysteria, President Obama went on television to announce that the flu epidemic was nothing less than a 'National Emergency' and billions of taxpayer's dollar were being poured into distributing the rushed-into-production vaccine (although curiously enough, very few people I've spoken to have actually seen hide nor hair of it in their neighborhood!)

My problem with all this? I suspect it's a scam!

The H1N1 virus looks to me like a pathetic misdirection. This 'pandemic' may have caused 1,000 deaths in the United States so far - but that's compared to almost that many who die every week from regular flu.

And let's get serious for a second here. While H1N1 can be very dangerous - hospitalizing 8% of the people infected with it - that's nothing compared to the 18% of people infected with regular flu who wind up in the hospital.

Regular flu is more widespread and more dangerous - but is hardly making a blip on our radar.

And why's this? Well, the cynical side of me suspects it's because the pharmaceutical lobbyists - who outnumber congressmen two and a half to one - have been investing millions into 'recruiting' politicians to their cause.

Scare up a scandal. Hype up the hysteria. Get people good 'n worried about the 'swine flu.' Follow that up by greasing a few palms in congress and then the next thing you know, the government has no choice but to invest billions into a dubious vaccine to supplement the existing flu vaccines.

So a few million invested by the drug companies reaps a tenfold reward. It's good business -but a bad example of the way things are done in Washington.

Okay, so some people might argue that I'm being ridiculous. Swine flu, after all, is entirely different to regular flu and while it might not be as dangerous, it poses it's own unique risk to vulnerable members of society. Surely it warrants it's own vaccine?

All I can say is: I'm not convinced. Statistically, while the Center for Disease Control admits that regular flu vaccine is between 70%-90% effective in combating flu 'in healthy adults,' it's not healthy adults who are at risk from flu.

The majority of deaths occur amongst children, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions. Regular vaccine is far less effective amongst the people who need it the most - in fact, studies from Alberta claim it doesn't reduce mortality at all.

...and if regular flu vaccine could just be a big, fat placebo (and an enormous - simply enormous - government-funded windfall for the pharmaceutical companies) what should we believe about Swine Flu vaccine?

There's even debate about whether the vaccine is needed at all. According to President Obama and the CDC, Swine Flu is already a 'pandemic.' But is it?

Interestingly enough, the CDC stopped recording individual cases of H1N1 in late July - after over 90% of those reporting 'Swine Flu' infection in the emergency rooms were discovered to either have regular flu (between 3-5%) or no infection at all.

The CDC - the federal body we trust to protect us from disease - doesn't keep any records of H1N1 infections. Yet they are still willing to claim it's a 'pandemic.'

It might well be - that colleague you hear coughing in the cubicle next to you could be hacking and spluttering Influenza A H1N1 all over the office. But, more likely, he's just got the sniffles, or is choking on a pretzel. The truth? We'll never know.

And that means if the CDC want me to take their 'word' about the risk of so-called Swine Flu, I will do.

When pigs fly.


Eve said...

I do think the whole thing has been blown way out of proportion. However, it is worth noting that H1N1 doesn't behave quite the same as the regular flu. H1N1 keeps going when regular flu season ends, for example. And according to Kaiser Permanente's website, "So far, children and young adults appear to be more frequently infected by the H1N1 flu than other groups. Currently, there have been fewer cases reported among people older than 64. This pattern differs from the pattern associated with seasonal flu, which often affects the elderly more than other age groups." If you're a young adult like me, meaning in the age group more likely to get H1N1, but less likely to get the regular flu, that's something worth paying attention to. Not worth panicking over, but worth washing my hands more at work (which is the public library) and school (community college, so lots of young adults in close proximity).

I do think this is something we should keep an eye on, since it's different from what we're used to dealing with, and we don't know everything about it yet. But I'm not wasting any money on the vaccine without much more compelling evidence that it's worth it.

Suki said...

I won't go so far as to say the vaccine is a placebo(but I'm not saying it isn't either!). But well, there's no doubting that the swine flu "pandemic" is definitely the product of major global hysteria.

IMHO, the aim of all advertising is to make people feel that they and their bodies aren't good enough. The swine flu hype seems to be simply an exceptional advertisement for a sub-standard product.

Joanna Cake said...

What gets me is the vast range of symptoms that seem to encompass swine flu over here. It could be a high temperature, it could be a persistent cough, it could be a general feeling of overpowering tiredness, it could be an upset stomach. It is most bizarre the number of people who have been 'diagnosed' with swine flue who seem to have totally different symptoms.

I had a bad case of manflu recently. I really wanted to retire to my bed but there was no one to cover my job and so I soldiered on. People kept saying I must have swine flu. But, since all I wanted to do was eat copious amounts of carbohydrates, I rather think it was probably just pig flu.

Only recently a friend's three year old was rushed to hospital via ambulance with a 40 degree temperature. Originally diagnosed with tonselitis, this then became possible swine flu... but they just werent sure. The mother in question refused to agree to the tamiflu treatment and the little one recovered after a couple of days... probably because it was just tonselitis.

The swine flu treatment seems to carry its own risks and if you're administering it when you only think it might be swine flu...?

As you say, the hysterical reporting in the media just whips everyone up into a frenzy. It's such a shame that they cant be more hysterical about handwashing and general hygiene. Perhaps then we'd all be a lot less prone to the superbugs which seem to be a far more hazardous threat. But I guess the pharmaceutical companies havent found an expensive cure for that. They certainly wouldnt pay for advertising that merely advises you to wash your hands more frequently...

Coffee Bean said...

Well, I am pretty certain I've already had the swine flu. Many on my son's football team got it (confirmed by tests) and then we got it. We didn't bother going to the doctor and it was a typical flu if you ask me. And my son is high risk due to his asthma and we didn't even have to break out the nebulizer. A few years back he got the flu and didn't get completely over it for 3 months.

I think things have been blown out of proportion and it would do people well to look at the statistics for the "regular" flu at the same time as you have done.