The Nickel Ranttm
April 29, 2009
"There is evidence there will be a major flu epidemic this coming fall. The indication is that we will see a return of the 1918 flu virus that is the most virulent form of the flu. In 1918 a half million Americans died. The projections are that this virus will kill one million Americans in 1976."
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My name is Edgar J. Steele.
After careful, close study and review of reports from around the world, I have concluded that the current Swine Flu "Public Health Emergency" is a false alarm.
Even so, I believe there is a very important lesson to be gleaned from the way we all responded to this threatened global pandemic. In fact, it may well be the real thing, but something that plays out over such a long period of time that immediate panic is grossly unwarranted. More on this below.
America Jumps In Once It's Safe
The American government seems to agree with me, because it ignored this burgeoning flu epidemic altogether until at least four days after other countries had reacted, placing even the United States on their "travel advisory" lists. Only after it became clear to me that we are in no immediate danger did the US government suddenly start reacting, declaring the "Public Health Emergency," holding congressional hearings and issuing statements right and left.
The initial reports, available days before America reacted, indicated that something serious was afoot:
Britain was (and still is) on full alert. New Zealand, France, Spain and several other countries reported suspected outbreaks. Cases of swine flu quickly were confirmed in California, New York, Ohio, Kansas, Eastern Canada (Nova Scotia) and Western Canada (British Columbia). Russia, along with several other countries, banned the import of meat products from Mexico, California, Texas and Kansas. Travel alerts were issued by several countries (not the US, though, until after the danger seemed to me to be past) about Mexico. Several included the US and/or all of North America in their travel alerts.
WHO's on first?
The World Health Org (WHO) held an emergency meeting in Geneva and "asked countries around the world to 'intensify surveillance for unusual outbreaks of influenza-like illness and severe pneumonia.'" Like an Abbot-and-Costello routine (Who's on first?), WHO dithered hopelessly about what to do and still they kept the pandemic alert level at phase 3 until the public outcry after the weekend caused it to raise it to phase 4, indicating that the virus showed sustained ability to pass from human to human, something that thousands in Mexico had known for up to a week, already.
WHO stated that Phase 5 would be reached "if the virus
is found in at least two countries in the same region ...
(and would be) a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent
and that the time to finalize the organization,
communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation
measures is short ... Phase 6 would indicate a full-scale
Clearly, we were at phase 4 a week ago and, probably, phase 5. Thankfully, the cases outside Mexico were much milder and there still have been no reported deaths aside from a couple of irresponsibly-attributed cases in California and the total in Mexico, which remains suspiciously low, even now.
As could be expected, Mexicans were freaking out right and left and piling out of the country. Guess where they are coming...
However, on Sunday night the overseas stock and currency markets quite simply did not react to this as though it were a true pandemic, bent upon killing millions. Monday morning on Wall Street looked perfectly normal. That said a lot to me. Only on Tuesday, after the US declared its Emergency, did the markets seem to react, but then only cursorily, as though just the moribund and uninformed were the only ones jumping in and selling.
Furthermore, the reported infections stopped blossoming around the world almost as soon as the reports started coming in over the weekend. Most telling, however, there have been no confirmed flu-related deaths outside of Mexico from this thing, despite those sloppy reports from California and despite people being sick upon arrival from a recent visit to Mexico, implying that even the initial strain is not particularly virulent.
If this were flu season, then the results we have seen would be peanuts, in terms of both infection and death rates, compared to the normal flu season. During a normal flu season, between 250,000 and 500,000 flu-related deaths occur, worldwide. Flu happens, to coin a phrase.
Also keep in mind that the conditions in Mexico, where poverty reigns and people are crowded together in unsanitary conditions, provide the ideal breeding ground for sickness. Health care in the US is much better and people see doctors for every little complaint, a major draw for the Mexicans who have come here since they have figured out that medical care is free for them. In Mexico, by the time doctors get to see the sickest, they likely already are goners.
I reached my decision on Monday morning, after having considered over the weekend calling my adult children home for the duration. I stood down from any sort of alert status myself. As always, I encourage others to make their own evaluations based upon their own experience and act accordingly.
Only later on Monday, after the stock markets had closed, did the U.S. government react, declaring a "Public Health Emergency." What did that imply? Dunno, but didn't you feel much better once you knew that DHS' Janet "I-hate-all-conservatives-and-love-Mexicans" Napolitano was on the job? (http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2009/04/26/20090426swineemergency.html?source=nletter-breakingnews)
Notice, however, that those embarrassing stories about torture memos and bailouts have been bumped to the back pages and off the TV news shows altogether.
The evidence seems to suggest that this was no accident. There are nagging reports of this flu's DNA carrying clear earmarks of having been intentionally engineered, with avian and swine strains from different continents, spliced together with a human vector to enable its entry into the general population.
Ever the conspiratorialist, I suspect that this was a trial run by "them" and I expect the real thing to come along at any time - likely within the next year or so. Or, it could be that this is the real thing, just the precursor to what will happen later this year, in an important parallel to the course of the flu pandemic of nearly a century ago.
The 1918 flu targeted the healthiest segment of the population because it was a form that turned victim immune systems against their owners. Thus, the young were the most susceptible to the resulting "Cytokine storms," wherein the body's immunological response to the flu actually does more damage than the consequences of the virus itself, killing the host with an overproduction of response. Most troubling about the current epidemic in Mexico is that it targets the same population segment as did that 1918 pandemic flu.
The Real Lesson for Today
Maybe this will blow over. Maybe it won't. Right
now, however, there appears to be little real danger to us.
Clearly, this flu strain is communicable, but not clear is whether it is airborne. Masks are useless, as the viral agents are much smaller than the openings in the fabric of all masks. Touching things, including others, then your face, is what does it, for sure.
Less clear is whether and/or how it might mutate.
Every body infected is another Petri dish in which the flu
gets a chance to reformulate itself, drawing upon the DNA of
its new host. On its own, this flu might become more
lethal or it might mutate into something harmless.
Regardless, remember that the flu comes in waves, with each wave usually worse than the last, and it could go on for months, if not years. That's what happened the last time, ninety years ago. If this is the real thing, destined to become a virulent global pandemic, that likely will not occur until the coming Fall and Winter, just as in 1918.
Note well that a declaration of phase 6, if it comes and whenever it comes, likely will bring with it a declaration of martial law from our government, including our loss of the ability to talk with each other like this over the Internet. Now is the time to consider how you should respond.
This was (if "was" is the correct term to use at this juncture) a good wakeup call for all of us. It certainly got me thinking about how I should respond to the real thing. And therein lies the real value of this experience to all of us.
New America - an idea whose time has come.
My name is Edgar J. Steele. Thanks for listening. Please visit my web site, www.NickelRant.com, for other messages just like this one.
Copyright ©2009, Edgar J. Steele
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