Some Scary Thoughts about the Flu

Whether this season’s swine flu turns out to be deadly or mild, most experts agree that it’s only a matter of time before we’re hit by a truly devastating flu pandemic — one that might kill more people worldwide than have died of the plague and aids combined.

…what if everything we think we know about fighting influenza is wrong? What if flu vaccines do not protect people from dying — particularly the elderly, who account for 90 percent of deaths from seasonal flu? And what if the expensive antiviral drugs that the government has stockpiled over the past few years also have little, if any, power to reduce the number of people who die or are hospitalized? The U.S. government — with the support of leaders in the public-health and medical communities — has put its faith in the power of vaccines and antiviral drugs to limit the spread and lethality of swine flu. Other plans to contain the pandemic seem anemic by comparison. Yet some top flu researchers are deeply skeptical of both flu vaccines and antivirals. Like the engineers who warned for years about the levees of New Orleans, these experts caution that our defenses may be flawed, and quite possibly useless against a truly lethal flu.

Shannon Brownlee in the Atlantic.

Comments (6)

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  1. Studebaker says:

    This is pretty scary. I stopped by the store yesterday and people were wearing surgical masks. I don’t know if it was to prevent them from contracting the flu — or spreading the flu.

  2. Jonathan C. says:

    “The estimate of 50 percent mortality reduction is based on “cohort studies,” which compare death rates in large groups, or cohorts, of people who choose to be vaccinated, against death rates in groups who don’t.”

    How realiable can this information be? I have mixed feelings about this vaccination, especially after the outbreak we are currently experiencing here in Texas. I was a strong believer of the flu vaccine and I even got it some time last year, trusting that me and every other person who chose to receive the vaccination would be out of danger. However, after hearing so many stories this year of people who indeed got vaccinated and still got the flu, I’m not sure what to believe anymore?
    They refer to the vaccine in this report as one of the few options out there to stay “clean”. However, it seems to not really work for everyone. It’s a bit concerning.

  3. Chris says:

    Antimicrobial copper should be used on all touch surfaces in public buildings, especially schools and hospitals. Perhaps the one instance where I think regulation would be okay would be for the government to mandate it in all new facilities built after X year. It isn’t any more expensive than the brushed stainless steel currently in use everywhere, its just institutional inertia that is avoiding it, or ignorance over the science of how copper destroys viruses and bacteria on contact. But there have been lots of studies on it in hospital environments.

  4. Evan Carr says:

    This article calls to mind a recent movie named Contagion, in which a deadly virus, a mixture between bat and pig DNA, becomes quite infectious with a high mortality rate. If one is to buy into any doomsday prophecy, I would put my money on a killer virus.

    The article mentions that viruses may be spreading more easily now. I would guess not that the viruses have changed much but that overall human health is declining with the rise of technology, processed foods and population. As our immune systems have gotten weaker, it becomes easier for virus contraction and expansion.

    The shunning of studies that are contradictory to conventional medicine seems ridiculous. It also makes me feel better about conscious and rational choice not to get a flu vaccine every year. Instead, I’ll eat my veggies and red meats, limit my carb and sugar intake, exercise religiously and continue committing myself to being as healthy as possible. Bring on the germs!

  5. Jordan says:

    I read that they were having to set up holding areas outside of emergency rooms for all of the people coming in with flu symptoms.

  6. The Native Indian says:

    After reading this, does anyone think of resident evil. Perhaps a flu strain could start that can turn us all into zombies.