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The Flu Pandemic: 1918…1976…and Now. Are We Learning?

Posted Sep 01 2009 3:18pm

1918 flu pandemic picture

The 1918 flu pandemic …that’s all we ever hear about nowadays. How we are on the brink of a virus that will be the end to us all…or some hype like that. In a modern world full of 24 hour “fear” coverage, we just have to step back, quiet the noise and look at the real picture. I can promise you this will be the last article I write on the 1918 flu, swine flu or any other pandemic flu, as I don’t want to contribute to the mass hysteria, but I would rather help to spread more mass awareness so you have your own answers, and can get on with living your life without fear.

Let’s Go Over The Facts

Fact #1: Yes the 1918 Pandemic was terrible and killed many people…but this is not 1918 anymore.

Fact #2: We went through a similar “scare” back in 1976 with the “swine flu”…and yet nothing happened.

Fact #3: People die every single year because of the flu…or complications that arise from already present conditions or secondary infections.

Here’s just a quick quote from the from the CDC themselves on stats on the seasonal flu:

Every year in the United States, on average:

  • 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu;
  • more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related complications; and
  • about 36,000 people die from flu-related causes.

Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), are at high risk for serious flu complications.

Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.

We Keep Coming Back To The “1918″ Scare, But We Are Not Living In 1918 Anymore

Regardless of what happened at any point in time, you still have to look at the conditions behind it. In 1918, we had World War I. Think of young men/troops being deployed in large numbers from many countries, confined in small barracks, spending weeks in box cars/ships traveling to and from the battlefield, huddled in mass trenches for battle. Is this really the same living conditions and confinement as today?

…a landscape that was contaminated with respiratory irritants such as chlorine and phosgene, and characterized by stress and overcrowding, the partial starvation in civilians, and the opportunity for rapid ‘passage’ of influenza in young soldiers would have provided the opportunity for multiple but small mutational charges throughout the viral genome.

Source: JS Oxford, A Sefton, R Jackson, W Innes, RS Daniels, and NPAS Johnson, “World War I may have allowed the emergence of ‘Spanish’ influenza,” The Lancet/ Infectious Diseases Vol. 2 February 2002.

So we see small confinement with large masses from all parts of the world in unclean conditions over extended periods of time. That just proves that long close quarter confinement is an ideal environment for the spread (and possible mutation) of viral diseases …just like why people on a cruise ship will get sick all together rather quickly.

Did this type of environment make the 1918 flu something that may not ever be seen again? Is this type of mutation possible in today’s world? Are we seeing more of these outbreaks in countries that have similar close quarter and unclean environments? These are all the questions we should be asking and the answers we should be wanting.

Instead of thinking “no worries a shot from modern medicine can save me,” why aren’t we looking to the past to see what conditions we need to “prevent” in order to stay healthy in the first place? Are we learning any lessons or just playing with fire until we get burned again?

Remember The 1976 Swine Flu “Epidemic”?

Remember the swine flu scare of 1976? Well, I don’t since I was 4, but apparently this is not the first time we’ve heard this message, as those of a younger generation may think. The “1918 flu killer” was on the loose back then to end the world as we knew it…or at least so we were told. But looking around, I see most of us are still here.

Below you will find 2 videos from a 60min piece (in 2 parts) about the aftermath of the 1976 mass vaccination. See how the educational commercials spread across the TV in 1976 say “the vaccines are safe,” like it was written in gold, yet it seems the aftermath told a different story.

Personally I enjoyed the videos as they reminded me of a time when true journalism actually investigated and questioned everything/everyone, rather than just blindly hyping whatever was passed to them without any real questioning. Sadly in a world full of non-stop information, we see less and less of the great newsmen/reporters of times past that avoided the “melodrama, frenzy and guesswork” that plagues most all the 24 hours news networks looking for the next great hype…every minute of the day…every day. (Even the late, great Walter Cronkite disliked the media circus of 24 hours news networks)

Here are the videos: 60 minute piece from 1979 in part 1:

and part 2 …you will see some of the commercials used towards the end…nice scare tactics

Scare Tactics Make For A Good Sales Pitch…And Good Business

In tough times, companies need to make money. And there’s no better way to make money than in using “Fear” to motivate people to do something (or buy something). This is just fact…nothing I agree with, but it works in the business world. So with all the latest flu coverage, and mass demand that comes for vaccines (from the fear of getting a flu after all), one has to wonder and ask “is someone getting rich off all this?”. Sadly, the answer may be “Yes”:

In terms of the share price, Roche is rocketing and GSK might as well stand for Great Swine flu Killing. The profits being reaped by these companies in the wake of the pandemic have been rising faster than the mercury in an old-fashioned thermometer.

Roche expects to have flogged 2 billion Swiss francs (around £1.2 billion) of Tamiflu by the end of this year, but what most people don’t realize is that another company, Gilead, actually made the drug and licensed its use to Roche (this kind of alliance allows smaller, innovative companies to harness the marketing muscle of larger companies). Gilead earns healthy royalties on every pack of Tamiflu. Interestingly, Gilead’s board of directors used to be chaired by Donald Rumsfeld, the former US Defence Secretary.

from Who is making a profit on the Swine Flu

24 Hours News…Let The Fear Spread

Like anything, the modern media pounces on whatever topic is hot and people want to hear about You always hear more about celebrities and fear based news than anything uplifting. So you can bet that “swine flu” Google searches have probably gone through the roof, leading to more media exposure, leading to more searches…and the “fear” cycle rolls on.

So when I saw this, I almost lost it. The modern media is wildly hyping based on loose facts and no real research anymore.

A report from a presidential advisory committee said that as many as 90,000 people in this country could die of the disease this fall and winter.

from Wallstreet Journal article: Swine Flu Update: How Deadly Will It Be?

What was interesting was how the next couple days it was all retracted about those numbers just being a “guess” and there is no evidence to suggest it would even be worse than a seasonal flu…but too late, the damage (or “Fear” marketing strategy) was already done.

You will undoubtedly see the media for the next several months announce 1 by 1 every “suspected case” of swine flu in each state, probably have some cool graphics to rank which states are in the lead, like it is a contest. Each station trying to out do their competition: more fear = better ratings.

But imagine if this kind of micro-focus was on every single person that died from the flu (or mainly complications) each year or each shark attack victim. Or how about each time someone has a heart attack during sex…we would all be scared half to death to even wake up and leave the house. Is this really any way to live?

People Will Die From The Flu…Like Every Year Before This One

flu vaccinations

Interesting graph...on how despite the rise of vaccines, there is no real change in rate of death in elderly

You may actually get sick with the flu somehow this year (or you may not)…but is this any need to panic? This is what the hype is all about - the fear of getting sick without some miracle shot to save us? When you step back and look at the whole picture, that is what it boils down to.

Who is saying the shots were a guaranteed solution anyways? The people who make them? Really (would you expect anything less from a company trying to sell something)? Looking at the graph to the right….I don’t even see any effect that shows a benefit especially in so called “high risk” groups like the elderly.

So are you going to wrap yourself in a plastic bubble? Live underground for the next year? Isolate yourself in the mountains? Panic doesn’t do any good. Want to see panic in full form, walk into any ER this winter and I’m sure you will see the fearful people flooding in with the first cough they have. How will this help any health facility to function properly? Our medical system is already overwhelmed and now anyone with a cough will run in fear to help drown the system even more.

Case in point…I live in Atlanta where it snows once a year. Now most of us have enough food in the house to last 1-2 days on average. Winter comes and at the first sign of possible snow coming it’s all over the news. People flood the supermarkets and buy out all the milk, bread, eggs, water. I always joke that it must be a tradition to make French Toast when it snows…so it’s what I do at least. How are people stocking up for a week worth of food really acting rationally when they “may” (as the snow is always easy enough to drive around in) have to stay home for at most a day? Fear doesn’t do anyone any good…and screws up the whole system (in this case, the grocery marts that sell out of essentials some people may actually need at that time).

So should you get a shot or what should you do if you get sick? That, my friend, is YOUR decision to make (not mine to tell you). But what I can say is that I never get a shot and if I do get sick I’ll do the same thing I always do: stay home, rest, drink water, eat fresh foods, take my apple cider vinegar and let my body do the healing for the next couple days.

Too Much Noise…So Little Wisdom

That title sums it up for me. I can’t control what is reported on TV, I can’t control the news 24/7…but I can control what I allow into my life for real information. Just because it’s being reported doesn’t mean I need to know about it (unlike every TV news station that uses the line on purpose “news you need to know”).

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. - Yoda

We are suffering more from informational overload than anything else nowadays. Our lives are now spent worrying about what is happening across the globe, following what people are doing every day, seeing every single crime committed blown up in high definition. And I ask, “what good does this do for your life?” With growing number of people depressed, on medications, overweight, unhappy…how are we actually making any progress with our own personal lives?

Believe it or not…there was a time where people waited days/weeks for letters from people to hear what was going on and didn’t know about the doings of every nation across the globe….and they got on with life just fine. Our brains are able to find peace and wisdom within…..but find it hard if flooded with excess stimulus/information.

What you let into your life, is your responsibility. The TV has an off switch and you don’t have to read every piece of news every single day. I get on with my life just fine…and am a lot happier without needing to know everything about everyone all times of the day. We are put on this planet to enjoy life and if you spend it without any real knowledge of yourself, then you will never be happy. Wisdom comes from within, not from the TV. So quiet the noise and find your own inner wisdom, then all answers become clear.

Nature’s Wake-up Call…Or Warning

How does a person who is not in good health in the first place, ever plan on getting better (or getting motivated to) if we keep telling them there is a “shot” for everything that ails you (or a pill in many cases)? I mean where is the profit in promoting healthy lifestyle, getting people to heal from the inside and eventually get to a point of better health?

Maybe instead of thinking there is a “killer virus” on the loose and we need a “shot” to save us, we think about this as a “warning” on an evolutionary level. Maybe whenever we do get sick, it should set off warning lights about the present state of our immune system. Maybe we should take time out and step back to examine our lifestyle habits around us and how they may impact our health. Maybe we stop thinking that these things are inevitable, and learn that our body is capable of putting up a strong defense, if we allow it to or if it’s not already overworked in the first place.

Of course those that are already suffering from serious conditions have a much bigger battle than the majority of us that still have not gone down that road yet. Maybe the next flu season we are weaker…and more complications come about. Maybe it’s time to look at how our kids are being raised, what they eat, their lifestyle activities…and the state of health they are in. The flu or something else will come along every year and will always be out there, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be healthy.

Maybe in the future Mother Nature won’t have anymore “little” warnings for us and something more serious happens  ……. since we haven’t been listening in the first place. There is only action and regret to take action ….which one will you do?

Lessons To Be Learned

The is a difference between “acting” and “re-acting”. People who are scared, angry, and fearful “re-act” to the stimulus that was presented them. People who are calm and unemotionally tied to the answer make up their mind based on the information at hand. They “act” in what they believe is best.

So maybe instead of promoting “fear”, we should promote “awareness” into what lessons we can learn from everyday life, past or present. If we are afraid right now of something, just take time to realize what it is you are “really” afraid of (death? failure?), now you can be aware to find a way to go about your life without living in that fear.

Here are a few to just think about and then see what actions if any you “really” need to take. Your life is your journey…wouldn’t you rather “act” than be “reacting” all the time?

  • Mass human confinement in unclean environment = optimal viral disease conditions. So pay attention to the environment around you and your family as it matters to your health.
  • The Flu kills people every year, just like shark attacks…and falling coconuts. But is it worth all the fear and attention it gets in your life (unless that attention is about prevention)?
  • You can live your life in fear of dying…or be happy to be living today. It’s your choice. There will always be a “new” threat to you in the modern media…but is it really a threat?
  • Prevention is the smartest way to be and stay healthy…as there is no cure-all shot for everything (and you don’t know the ramifications that may happen later on as well). Ignore prevention and your body will respond in kind.
  • If you have “underlying” conditions, then you need to fix those. Ignore them and you are taking risks with your life. People can get better, can lose weight, can feel happier, but you need to take the right steps daily to get there.
  • If you fail to make time or effort to eat right, exercise, sleep, relax ….you will regret it, get ill and probably blame a “bug going around”…when maybe the real blame is your own actions (or lack of). It’s never too late to turn things around…but you have to take personal responsibility in the first place and not blame something out there to get us all. Save yourself first ….don’t plan on someone (or some pill/shot) coming to your rescue.
  • You may get sick, and may have to stay home from work/school, so deal with it and get better. Life happens… change is part of nature …the world isn’t going to go along with your schedule so learn to be a little more flexible and don’t panic at the thought of things not going to plan all the time.
  • You have control of the information flow in your life…do you want positive or negative in-flow? Your choice to what you allow in.
  • Live each day with your own purpose …act upon your own set of goals…don’t react to outside stimulus that has nothing to do with your daily purpose.
  • Most people can answer “who won American Idol” yet have no answers for “what makes me happy”. Get your priorities in life right (health, prevention, purpose) and the rest takes care of itself.
  • It’s not my job to tell you to do anything, but the greatest thing I can do is help create your own personal awareness of what is going on, so you may find the wisdom within to make the right actions.

I always use the line jokingly that the real benefit of dying is then I won’t have a reason to worry about it anymore. Don’t put off living because you are always in fear of something. You can get the facts, but still live your life daily with health, prevention and purpose …then all else seems to just fall away in importance. Help others to do the same through personal awareness (and waking up) and you will be giving them the greatest gift possible life has to offer!

Wrapping Up: More Info/Links

I still like a good sense of humor, especially when it is used to make a point, so I leave you with my favorite video on “How to make your own flu shot” …along with some other links below:

  • And be on the lookout for doctors hiding in trees with vaccines as you never know when you could be attacked by your local doctor and given a shot without warning: “A Jupiter doctor who allegedly slipped one of his employees a flu shot when she wasn’t looking was arrested late Monday and charged with aggravated battery. Doering, who was giving out free flu shots, was encouraging Roman to get one, but she told him he was not sure she could have one. While she was on the phone, Doering allegedly injected the shot into her arm, according to a sheriff’s report.”
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