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Man Flu: The Sorrow and the Suffering of American Flu Politics

Posted Jan 01 2014 12:00am

AG mF 1

By Adriana Gamondes

 Have you ever tended to a guy with the flu or encountered  the dreaded “man flu syndrome”?  I was accused of reverse sexism by an online troll for daring to mention it, but it really is a “thing” and it’s mostly mocked by guys themselves.  Striking almost exclusively in English speaking countries, man flu has inspired many audiovisual tributes. 




And a post-alternative punk cult band from England!

Actually I couldn’t find any man flu spoofs coming out of the US, where we have no sense of humor at all about influenza.  Here, we take man flu dead seriously.  And deadly it is—to family harmony and marriage anyway. According to many a mom, it’s even worse than “angry dad on vacation.” The sorrow and the suffering. The cries and whispers. And the woe.

Has anyone also noticed that an overwhelming percentage of online biotech stealth-marketing trolls are male?  They can be found in gaggles in every media comment sections following articles even lightly brushing on biotech, usually trailing after Dorit Reiss like little ducklings from their Skeptic front group hubs , spouting pseudorational catchphrases and Latin legalese such as “cum hoc ergo propter hoc!”  defending GM crops, psychiatric drugs and shot mandates till the cows come home.  I could provide a thousand examples of male-dominated comment threads on the subject of vaccines but anyone can look for themselves. Both genders are represented on either side but men lead the Skeptic charge hands down and they tend to hang around the longest to get in the last word. With the exception, again, of Omni-Dorit .

And you have to ask yourself, at what other time in history have so many red-blooded, twenty- and thirty-something males been so fixated on any communicable disease other than the clap?  I’ve wondered if that’s what’s really driving the front groups beyond money:  man flu. Or just the idea of it.  In any event, as much as the trolls crow about the suffering of little children, could it be more to the point that some believe herd immunity will spare them personal agony?

As if man flu sufferers needed science on their side, now they’ve got it: as far as flu goes, a new study reportedly argues that men suffer more.  

For years women have cried “man flu” when men make a fuss over a few sniffles.

But a new study suggests that men may actually suffer more when they are struck down with flu - because high levels of testosterone can weaken their immune response.

The study by Stanford University School of Medicine, examined the reactions of men and women to vaccination against flu.

It found women generally had a stronger antibody response to the jab than men, giving them better protection against the virus.

Men with lower testosterone levels also had a better immune response, more or less equivalent to that of women.

Get that, guys? Real men fall to pieces over flu. Unreal men—like those in post-alternative punk bands who prance around in kimonos— take it lightly, make jokes about it in the same breath that they poke fun of country music and… Nazis. Unreal men don’t even make basic sense

It seems the only time “low T” is a good thing is when it comes to flu. And women— this is why you have to get your damned vaccine as Nancy Snyderman commanded: to protect the manliest of men.

If it seems like the vaccine mandate push is promoted most visibly by men with a few token female beards like Reiss and Snyderman thrown in, it’s equally obvious that women make up the bulk of the resistance movements, such as consumer medical choice groups and professional collectives like Nurses Against Mandatory Vaccines  which fight the increasing healthcare worker mandates.  

Online biotech trolls are often bullies and the idea of mandates is commandingly macho, sort of verging on S&M if you ponder on it: being bound by force of law to get poked with something. Ew. The Skeptic front group has been accused of creating just another old boy’s club more than once and it’s clear that pushing shots provides the right kind of protection racket construct to tempt any control freak  with the thrill of power over others, particularly errant “mommies” who just don’t know what’s good for ‘em or their disposable little drug receptacles.

AG 2 inches of twisted fury A Gamondes

Then again some commenters seem genuinely frightened of the flu season.  But more detailed reports on flu and testosterone admit that hormones only impact the vaccine’s effectiveness and have little bearing on natural immune response to the virus.  So at least for seasonal flu, it may feel worse for men but it isn’t.  But it feels worse.

In mid-January, my own family came down with the flu. Did we catch it from an unvaccinated person? It wasn’t just regular flu but curiously types A (swine?) and B combined according to the pediatrician’s swabs—the same combination that’s in the live nasal flu vaccine that’s given in Walgreens and school lunchrooms and then potentially “virally sheds” for up to four weeks.  An epidemic of coincidences! Since my husband caught it on the plane from Boston while seated in a clot of coughing businessmen, I think it was officially man flu—as well as possibly man-made— and he definitely got the crap end of it compared to the rest of us, with a fever that got stuck at 103.6 even after taking ibuprofen.

He rarely gets sick and, other than a few scary fever readings, not badly. The fever seems to go with the illness being generally short lived. I used to think he got unusually high fevers (for an adult) because, being from Argentina, he wasn’t adapted to American bugs. After a while, it was clear it’s just him. On this round, he lay prostrate in bed for the first day of it, coughing, burning up and making text requests for Last Rites. 

  AG Viva la Revolucion

For some quip-background, the Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara was called “The Pig” in medical school because he wore the same stinking shirt every day… But never mind, no one cares. Aren’t we cute?  Real man symptoms. Unreal man entertainment. Plus on the day I got the worst of it, he made all the same bedside ministrations that I had for him and the twins.  I got homemade Italian wedding soup and ginger tea.  How’d I ever get so lucky? Anyway…

The health benefits of laughter aside, it might sound strange that my husband doesn’t take the flu seriously enough to get the shot since disease-mongerers in the US frequently point to contagion in Latin America as proof of the deadliness of disease and the dire need for 118 doses of 16 vaccines between birth and 18. But like most middle class South Americans in my husband’s generation, my husband had had only about three vaccines from age two to three but had never been life-threateningly ill. He and his generation grew up automatically understanding that the secret to lethal infection was poverty, severe malnutrition and living year round in sewage. This is why former Chilean president Dr. Salvador Allende published a book proposing mostly non-medical interventions to address outbreaks in the slums in 1939 entitled La Realidad Médico Social de Chile . But disease politics are nothing new: when Allende attempted to institute these nonmedical interventions as democratically elected president in 1970, out of concern for lost revenue, the Chilean medical association backlashed violently and withdrew support from Allende, an event which directly contributed to Allende’s downfall and death at the hands of the CIA and Pinochet in 1971.

In any case, none of my husband’s well-fed university peers even feared disease from visiting the barrios.  For his architectural thesis, he and his grad group went into the poorest area of the South American outback for several weeks to develop an entire town center from the ground up using only local resources.

AG 4 thesis

Though the students spent weeks hacking down shrubs for beams with machetes, digging in the muck from dusk till dawn to make bricks to construct a brick factory and demonstrating construction techniques for the locals by building sustainable infrastructure, there was never a discussion of getting shots to ward off the scourges of the slums. Though the area was mosquito-ridden, there was apparently little concern about malaria. Anecdotally, healthy South Americans with at least some Indian blood tend to be resistant for various reasons—possible genetics , periodic exposure since childhood and nutrition . Only the two students from Europe got malaria during the course of the project.

But despite his rugged history, when we first got married, the fact that my husband occasionally got such high fevers from routine bugs used to freak me out.  The first time it happened, I dragged him kicking and screaming and acting slightly drunk to ER where they proscribed ibuprofen, declared he would live and sent us home. After humoring me once, my husband said, “See? Not worth the co-pay.” and refused the next time.  But after being inundated with flu hysteria via NPR from 2003 to 2006,   we broke down and stupidly got a few flu shots and the infections and fallout that followed were a horror show. 

Neither of us had ever experienced illness like that in our lives. From the time the twins were one year old and over the course of the next few years immediately following the shots, we were struck down one after the other like the murder medley from The Godfather. We found out the hard way that we weren’t “Round-Up Ready.” My husband ended up in ER twice with a pneumothorax and with allergies for the first time in his existence.  During one period in his childhood, he’d lived on his uncle’s ranch in the country with thirty dogs and cats, macaws and monkeys on the veranda. But immediately following shots, suddenly our cats and pollen began making him wheeze. At the same time, I ended up in ER with exploding ear drums, “mild” Guillian-Barré twice and quickly developed a gluten allergy despite formerly being a goat who could eat anything. Though I’d trained in dance for 15 years, for months after flu jabs I couldn’t walk upstairs without hauling myself by the banister.  We were the lucky ones and, save for the rotten allergies, eventually recovered. But our twins developed gut disorders, multiple allergies and autism— not so much from the post-vaccine infections but from the same vax-triggered immune system overdrive that induced the illnesses. And my father got it the worst of all: after developing a Guillian-Barré-like progressive paralysis from a final, fateful flu shot, he died.  He knew what was killing him too. After he lost speech, he wrote that the pharmaceutical industry and other corporate abusers wanted nothing less than “the divine right of kings.”

We later learned that at least the post-shot infection scourge had been officially recognized and had a name. Swabs were taken at the time of infection and it wasn’t influenza: it was likely something now known as “vaccine-associated enhanced respiratory disease” or VAERD .

Two times was not only the charm, it’s also the gold standard for determining cause: we figured out the mysterious connection between simultaneous family symptoms and never got flu shots again.  We also later learned that the CDC’s reports of “36,000” to “50,000” yearly flu deaths that fueled the media harum-scarum were largely a hoax. Not even that many have died from flu in the US in the thirty-something years that the CDC has tracked the flu.  The actual number, according to that radical bastion, the American Heart and Lung Association, averages about 1,300 annual flu deaths with children consistently making up the smallest number:

AG 5 American Heart and Lung Association

Something else the statistics bring to light is that, although the number of yearly flu deaths in the US is relatively small, with 85% occurring in those over age 70 (who, according to the CDC and FDA, have the strongest flu vaccination rates ), females face nearly twice the risk of dying from it. It’s unclear whether this is because women tend to live longer—long enough to come to an age where they’re more susceptible to dying directly from flu—or because females are somehow more susceptible or are receiving lower quality medical interventions (or post-infection interventions that are particularly toxic to women). Without more detailed information, it’s hard to say.

  AG 7 AHLA flu deaths gender


So much for man flu.  

As a side note, also interesting is how much lower are the flu deaths among African Americans, a group which had traditionally been “resistant” to getting flu shots.  Diseases, like drugs, aren’t one size fits all. As with malaria, there may be genetic factors at play in how severely someone might be stricken by a particular disease or environmental factors that differ between ethnic groups. If you read African American history, jaundice towards organized medicine traces back even before the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and it’s unclear whether low vaccine uptake is a cause or result of lower African American flu mortality rates.

Since rejecting flu shots, we don’t get that sick anymore. Or I should say the kids don’t get that sick anymore and the adults in the house don’t get that sick again since we’d both had entire lifetimes of relatively mild infections to compare to the post-flu shot disaster. All the same, we don’t take this for granted. We take the kids to the doctor if they get spooky infections, though fortunately we go to non-drug-pushing doctors and the kids haven’t had antibiotics or ear infections in 8 years while they’ve significantly recovered from autism.  Also, usually at the same time people start avoiding flu shots, they begin learning about boosting  immunity naturally: staying hydrated, avoiding toxins,  getting enough sleep, cranking up methods of sanitation (washing hands, carrying nontoxic hand wipes),  vitamin D and  C and fish oil;  organic diet, etc. When bugs strike, you make a lot of bone broth, swallow a lot of elderberry syrup, whip up things like “ fire (flu) cider ,” and consume enough turmeric root and fresh garlic to kill the entire Twilight series. Certain mainstream medical interventions are viewed as last-ditch, particularly in light of the new wisdom on fever   and overuse of antibiotics. 

Our leeriness doesn’t come from an “anti-vaccine” position, more an anti-specific-corporation position and an anti-repeat-experience position.  Vaccines in theory are fine with me but the practice and production of shots in reality is something else entirely. Just like “music” as a conception is not owned by RCA or Sony, the concept of preventive medicine isn’t owned by Sanofi-Pasteur, Medimmune, Merck, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline—except Island Records and Justin Bieber never killed anyone with schlock music whereas the pharmaceutical industry annually kills hundreds of thousands worldwide. Still, I like to think that somewhere in an alternate universe where biotech giants don’t have a stranglehold on research, development and marketing, some enterprising green biotech company has come up with extremely low-risk and highly effective novel prevention methods for a few actually deadly diseases. But that’s not this universe even if the voluntary vaccine programs in certain countries are generally safer than the bloated, toxic and mandated US schedule. Plus, once you or close family member have experienced adverse reactions, it’s wise to use caution.

All the same we don’t take illness for granted in general because there’s a chance—and potential reasons—why common illnesses may be getting more serious. First there’s the effects of rising pollution on human immunological  health, like the LA Times investigation which found that Bill Gates oil holdings in Nigeria were causing increased rates of the very diseases his organization vaccinates for. Also we don’t take lightly the warnings that climate change may generate pandemics. We know that factory farming generates novel illness due to filthy and inhumane production practices. Then, also stemming from overuse of antibiotics in factory farming and human medicine, there’s less reassurance in the fact that the real cause of death in the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic was secondary bacterial pneumonia   (that could been treated by modern antibiotics had they existed) if we’re now facing an increase of antibiotic resistant bacterial strains .  This may be the most common “real cause” of mortality in today’s flu cases as well—secondary pneumonia— but the point is moot if antibiotics are increasingly ineffective on some strains and death is death.

And finally there’s the “conspiracy theory” that the pharmaceutical industry isn’t content to wait for serious flu epidemics to break out and scare the public into vaccine compliance:  theoretically, according to the popular Halliburton/disaster capitalism profit model, industry could generate more serious flu and compel more shot mandates simply by creating a Frankenstein strain and spreading it via viral shedding through the hapless “vector” of those who get the attenuated (live) intranasal flu vax. 

AG disaster capitalism1

Could happen, you never know. Could be happening right now .  

AG Viral Shedding

The above study concludes that little is known about viral shedding between adults and more needs to be investigated.  But it’s enough to make you think and there’s always the model event of flaccid paralysis or vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV) outbreaks following Bill Gates polio vaccine drive in the third world. As we’ve seen, the third world is generally our experimental playground where we try out things like deadly drugs and police state tactics before bringing them home. As conspiracy theories go, the “viral shedding flu outbreak” theory is among the more plausible.

 The fun fact about the term “conspiracy theory” is that it was coined by J. Edgar Hoover in his campaign to convince the public that organized crime didn’t exist.  It hasn’t been particularly reassuring to the public that Hoover and the CIA launched an actual conspiracy to stop conspiracy theories , so  whenever anyone calls something a “conspiracy theory,” you have to at least consider the original source for a moment and the fact that this source is basically in the dictionary under “epic, whopping, conspiratorial freak.”

AG Hoover Tony Soprano

What’s not so funny is the report that, in California this year,  up to 146 individuals under age 65 may have died from H1N1 virus—or, more accurately, mostly from pneumonia and other complications preceded by swine flu— which suddenly began recirculating this year after it had been “replaced” by last year’s reportedly less serious H3N2 virus. I learned recently that the cousin of a friend died after everyone assumed he’d nearly recovered from the flu. The belief so far was that he died of secondary pneumonia like Matthew Walker in California, but that doesn’t make these losses less tragic.

Among this year's victims were 23-year-old Matthew Walker, of Santa Rosa, a healthy young man who enjoyed windsurfing and skateboarding. The experience of losing a son, his father, Cliff Walker, told NBC Bay Area, was "a ragged roller coaster ride, with a bad ending."

All but one of this year's deaths have been linked to the H1N1 virus. Most occurred in Californians who, unlike Walker, had a pre-existing medical condition, such as chronic heart disease, asthma or a suppressed immune system, or were pregnant, according to Chavez… Some scientists think the genetic structure of H1N1 targets the lungs, while H3N2 tended to attack the upper respiratory system. A mutation in an amino acid called D225G might allow H1N1 to bind more effectively to lung cells, making us more susceptible to pneumonia and death. This year, more than 95 percent of the circulating flu viruses are H1N1, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention That's much higher than in any of the previous three flu seasons.

"It has knocked the other strains off the map," said [Dr. Anthony] Fauci.

It is here to stay, he said. "It's not a pandemic any more. It is a familiar virus," said Fauci.

"It's ours now. We own it."

Or maybe someone owns the patent for it. Dr. Anthony Fauci is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases division of the National Institute of Health (NIAID). Though it’s not clear that this year’s flu mortality rates are really significantly higher compared to previous years, it’s typical that the public figure quoted above runs an agency which has  financial and development arrangements with MedImmune to produce attenuated (live) intranasal flu vaccines.

The NIAID has joined forces with MedImmune to develop potential pandemic influenza live attenuated vaccines by preemptively developing at least 1 vaccine for each of the 16 HAs.

Time will tell, the truth will out and, in the meantime, the screaming conflicts are par for the course. From pertussis, to measles to flu, there are questions about the sources, accuracy and agendas of “outbreak” propaganda invariably pushing shots and failing to mention that this year’s flu vaccine has already shown a high rate of adverse events (23 post-trial deaths among the elderly) and may carry a  deadly toll even for young and healthy individuals.

Something else never mentioned in the outbreak alerts is that factors like metal toxicity or simply getting a seasonal flu shot the year before  can predispose people to increased risk of serious infection with swine flu.  If the point is really protecting health, it’s unclear why these warnings and others are omitted in the mainstream media except that they fail to promote media sponsors’ profitable vaccines which, as the Cochrane Review reported last year, are highly ineffective in preventing flu and pose risks.

Again, I find it curious that, within the battle for flu vax mandates, it’s mostly women (moms, the most visible activist healthcare workers) making up the rank and file of the backlash. The sincerity of this resistance for the sake of child and family health or out of concern for side effects can be measure against the fact that women seem to have more to lose regarding flu mortality risk. Meanwhile the fact that it’s mostly men (online viral marketers and front group soldiers, executives, policy makers) promoting compulsory shots has a shooting-one’s gender-in-the-foot appearance. According to developmental disability rates, this is where males likely have the most to lose and, due to the synergy of testosterone and mercury, male susceptibility to the thimersoal that’s still in most injectable flu vaccines represents another tech risk factor.  

“Man flu” makes a grabby title but I really don’t know what, if anything, flu has to do with gender, though it’s not that much of a strain to dredge up gender relevance for vaccine politics and general and developmental disability specifically.  Autism: 4-5 x as many boys affected. There’s always the fact that the countries with the highest number of women in government and science—Sweden and Norway—also have among the best child mortality in the world, among the best longevity,  completely voluntary vaccines, no routine childhood flu shots, no thimerosal and among the lowest rates of autism.  Maybe women should have more equal voice in policy instead of the current American token gender system where, like any token system, only the few women who most viciously reflect the dominant “corporatist/war paradigm” seem to be allowed to rise. And maybe autism—which has sent generations of often-working mothers back to 50’s-style childrearing, sometimes in perpetuity for adult children who will never be independent and in an era when it mostly takes two incomes to keep a family afloat—is a “feminist issue”—which makes it ironic that autism and forced vaccination haven’t become issues for mainstream feminist groups. 

But in that same un-funny disability-family scenario, there are single parents and dads working themselves into early graves to pay for scarce services and health resources. I didn’t mention my husband’s head-slapping moments of terror realizing that, due to illness, he could miss work deadlines and that there’s no net because he runs his own firm (and there was only the illusion of a net for the 16 years he worked for corporate firms).  I didn’t mention that he worked straight through a 104 fever from home or my own waves of panic just thinking about what could happen to the kids if even one of us became disabled or died.  The despair of “man flu” and what makes it seem to be a kind of break-through protest emitted by those who generally remain too self-defeatingly silent for the rest of the time is that, down among the slave-laboring “99%” who struggle with ailing kids, ailing economy, failing immunological health and no sick leave, there’s no such thing as heeding normal cues to slow down and take a break because no one’s ever allowed off the merry-go-round until they drop dead. Toxic preventive medicine is a hostage crisis even without mandates.  So medical force and all the industrial plagues and environmental wreckage destroying the planet, the economy and human immunity are about a much more general inequality—an imbalance of power between the public and corporations. In a period when justice is only for those who can pay for it, the corporate lobbies win.  In the final analysis, there’s a certain crappy equality in flu shot politics in the US and all and sundry interrelated topics: in terms of the general population, it pretty much gives everyone something to cry about.  Maybe we all need to cry louder.

Adriana Gamondes is a contributing editor of Age of Autism. She lives with her husband and recovering twins, commuting between Massachusetts and Florida.

Posted by Age of Autism at January 31, 2014 at 5:45 AM in Adriana Gamondes Permalink

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