October 24th, 2009

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#112 – Dick Bernard: “La Grippe”

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

This morning a New York Times bulletin said “Obama Declares H1N1 Flu a National Emergency“.  The summary said “Mr. Obama had signed a proclamation that would allow medical officials to bypass certain federal requirements.  Officials described the move as similar to a declaration ahead of a hurricane making landfall.”

Preparedness is great.  But my initial reaction to this is it’s time for us all “to get a “grippe”, to not over-react.  (“The grippe” is how I remember my grandparents describing the illness that we know as the flu.)

Last night on the national news the resident doctor expert was asked about the significance of the current flu outbreak, and the fact that so far 1,000 people have died in the U.S.  He more or less “mumbled” an answer that the outbreak is very serious and unusual.  Best I recall, the camera angle was from behind the doctor, with a concerned-looking anchorman listening earnestly to him.  He wouldn’t be pinned down on how bad 1,000 deaths thus far actually was (an average of 20 per state over a period of some months.)

The news narrative is that this flu outbreak is a crisis.  It is almost a lead story: little kids crying when they get their flu shots; schools closing….

I don’t doubt the general problem or the need for concern, but I wonder to myself how much we are manipulated by those with a vested interest in this crisis, particularly economic interest.  (The same news program seems largely funded by pharmaceutical ads.)

We need to “get a grippe”.  Back in April on this blog I commented that my mother nearly died in the 1918 flu pandemic which, as pointed out at #mce_temp_url# affected 28% of Americans and killed 675,000 (in a country with a then-population of about 100,000,000, compared to today’s 300,000,000.)  (Her recollections of that near-death experience are in my April 27, 2009 blog post #mce_temp_url#

Absolutely, there is reason to be concerned and to be prudent.  (I’ve had my flu shot; we’ve had one grandkid get the flu and throw up at our place while kid-sitting recently…and my spouse became his caregiver when he had to stay home from school…it’s hard to avoid reality.)

But, I think it is also prudent to keep in mind that there is also a LOT of money to be made by milking public hysteria.  And as we’ve learned over the past decade, fear is a potent weapon.  The flu shots and mist are not totally without risk either.  This we tend to forget.

Obama’s caution, as noted in the NYTimes article, is prudent; I have a bit less confidence in the headline, and the spin….

My two previous blog postings on this issue can be found at #mce_temp_url# and #mce_temp_url#.