H1N1: a case of manufactured panic attack

Despite being less dangerous than seasonal flu, H1N1 is the new bogeyman.

John Hauck

For months and months there has been considerable chatter about the H1N1 virus and the dangers of the pandemic. The World Health Organization has declared the situation to be a pandemic, raising the Pandemic Alert level to Phase Six, the highest level on the scale. Media have followed-up by disseminating a multitude of reports on the dangers of swine flu and its spread across the world. Because of this, we’ve seen people talk about how we’re to arm ourselves against the virus. We’ve received emails from the university warning of us its dangers, and the Daily has even run stories about its predicted outbreak. What a load of fear-mongering crap. Despite what the media and various governmental organizations would have you believe, swine flu should not be a very big concern and we are being hoodwinked by the man once again. Swine flu has simply become the latest scare for the media and government to foist upon the masses for their own benefit. The fear of swine flu (yes, I said âÄúswine fluâÄù) and its effects begin to seem downright foolish when one examines the actual infection and death rates. According to the Center for Disease Control, so far there have been 687 deaths from swine flu in 2009 out of 51,000 confirmed cases. Compare that to the regular flu, and H1N1âÄôs death rate is found to be pretty much exactly the same, about a tenth of a percent. So how has the swine flu pandemic arrived at the ominous forefront of our collective consciousness? The answer to this question is that the media has irresponsibly blown up the problem and completely misrepresented it in order to cause the panic that captures the attention of the public. A common theme in swine flu coverage is the idea that it is especially dangerous or fatal to children. While this is true in the sense that a disproportionate number of those with the virus are children, they are not dying at a high rate and generally experience mild symptoms. Reuters has been one of the lone reporters of this truth, citing Dr. Marc Lipsitch, an infectious disease expert at Harvard University. According to Lipsitch, âÄúIt’s mildest in kids. That’s one of the really good pieces of news in this pandemic.âÄù Lipsitch also notes that seasonal flu is far more deadly among the elderly, who make up ninety percent of flu deaths each year. Children who have the virus apparently often go unreported simply because their symptoms are so mild that they fail to prompt serious concern. Infectious disease experts beyond Lipsitch are not sold on swine flu constituting a serious problem. Dr. Neil Rau criticized the WHO for raising the Pandemic Alert level, saying âÄúI don’t agree with [the WHO] because I think it’s a panic meter, not a pandemic meter. We have just frightened everyone that a catastrophe is imminent and yet no one is actually looking at the disease.âÄù These expert statements come in stark contrast to the impressions left by most media sources, including the Associated Press. A Sunday AP report said that swine flu is âÄúputting a shockingly younger face on the flu,âÄù and asks the morbid question of how many deaths there will be this winter, âÄúThe usual 36,000 deaths from the flu? Or tens of thousands more?âÄù If you listen to the experts accurately assess the situation, the reporting is revealed for what it really is: sensationalism. While the media has been able to use the swine flu panic to attract better ratings, governments have used the fear to further certain interests and violate the rights of the people. The federal government has ordered 75.3 million doses of the swine flu vaccine, a shockingly-high number considering the dubious nature of the threat. The last time a scare like this struck and a new vaccine was rushed through was in 1976, and thank to the vaccines hundreds of people developed neuromuscular disorders and some died. More people fell victim to the vaccine than the flu it was preventing. The panic has allowed governments to overstep constitutional bounds. Already Massachusetts has passed a law in response to the H1N1 virus that fines and possibly jails anyone who fails to obey a public health official during a public health emergency. So if you refuse the unnecessary and possibly dangerous drug cocktail the government is forcing on you ostensibly for your health you could end up a jail cell. What is really striking about the hullaballoo is that the major beneficiaries of such distortions are the giant foreign drug companies. Sanofi-Aventis of France and GlaxoSmithKline of London are supplying millions upon millions of doses of vaccine to the United States government in deals that will make them untold (and currently private) amounts of money. Unfortunately for the taxpaying public, it appears we are victims of manufactured fear once again. I don’t know if I’d recommend getting a new and improved swine flu shot to protect yourself this winter, because you’re probably better off (and safer) just eating healthy and getting your vitamins and minerals. John Hauck welcomes comments at [email protected]