Swine Flu Hysteria, Pt. 2

The President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, has the H1N1 flu.  He apparently contracted it at a summit last week in Argentina.  Uribe reportedly is continuing his duties as that country’s chief executive by phone and the internet while he recovers from the sickness at home.

Don’t worry.  The sky has not fallen on Colombia.  The country’s infrastructure has not crumbled.  That South American country’s economy has not ground to a halt.  Life goes on.  The country’s president is ill and he is recovering with proper treatment.

Maybe there’s a lesson here.  Stop the hysteria.  Take reasonable precautions, and treat those who become ill properly. 

Yet somehow here in the United States, the world’s only remaining superpower seems unable to keep a possible outbreak of the flu in proper perspective.  The recent, overblown “report” issued in mid-August by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology continues to be reported as fact, even though – as noted in this blog on Monday — the document was simply opining on one of many possible swine flu scenarios.  And school districts around the country continue to take extreme measures, anticipating a calamity of historic proportions.  

One major school district on Long Island, New York — Nassau County — for example, is planning to ban all human-to-human contact, including hand touching, “high fives,” and even “chest bumps” performed by football players following a touchdown. 

Even as this school district is movng to implement such an unrealistic policy as “no human-to-human touching,” Nassau County health officials are reported to be stating publicly that ”hysteria should be avoided.”  Local government officials have stated “they were more concerned about the possibility of widespread anxiety or panic” than they were about the “spread of swine flu” itself, even as they implement a policy designed to fans the flames.  Oh well, let’s not let a little irony stand in the way of alarmism.

34 comments Add your comment

Road Scholar

September 2nd, 2009
6:24 am

Well, Bob, for some, common sense doesn’t work. Wash your hands, minimize physical contact, and, the big one, stay home if you get sick. You may incubate your family, but don’t spread it beyond them. While I have to admit the publicity has been non-stop, there are still some who don’t have a clue.

jt

September 2nd, 2009
7:26 am

Guns, drugs, crime, climate change, etc……..Mass hysteria is what Americans do best.

Davo

September 2nd, 2009
8:45 am

Yet somehow here in the United States, the world’s only remaining superpower…”

I’m not sure the Chinese would agree with you there, BB. After all; who’s the one holding our present and future debt?

But I digress. These days your probably more likely to die at a laundrymat in Atlanta for spare change than from swine flu.

johnny morrison

September 2nd, 2009
9:17 am

I suppose wife swapping parties are a no no then as kissing may be involved

clyde

September 2nd, 2009
9:26 am

Damn pigs.Let’s eat them all.Bacon,sausage,spare ribs,ham.

PM

September 2nd, 2009
9:51 am

jt, you forgot the economy, namely “the recession”. How about a fist bump?

PM

September 2nd, 2009
9:56 am

also forgot health care….plenty of hysteria there also.

Richard Vengroff

September 2nd, 2009
10:04 am

Bob, Two quick points, one factual the other a question. Nassau county on Long Island, N.Y. has 56 different independent school districts. Your blog suggests that there is one Nassau county school district and suggest that it is contemplating a decision on contact between students. Which of the School Boards is considering that decision? Was it one or two or all as you suggest? My other question is how many students need to contract the flu before we get concerned. Are the 50 reported cases at Emory, the numerous reported and unreported cases at Georgia’s public universities or some other number that indicates an unrealistic concern? Planning and knowledge will certainly be of help in addressing these issues. Criticizing those who make us aware of the possible threat is not, in my view, helpful.

pd

September 2nd, 2009
10:05 am

The President said very clearly, “I don’t want anyone to be alarmed, but I want everyone to be prepared”.

That is not hysteria. No one is freaking out except those people like Bob Barr who are freaking out saying that people are freaking out. Its quite convoluted.

Ayn Rand Was Right

September 2nd, 2009
10:59 am

It’s the FLU. Kills people all the time, just not so many here with modern medicine and good hygiene practices. Every so often there must be something scary and uncontrolable to control the sheeple. Remember when AIDS was going to kill more than 1/2 of us before the millennium? Not to diminish the terrible toll AIDS takes on our country, but 1/2 of us are not dead. SARS…anyone remember that? The best way to keep your sheeple in the pen is to scare them about what lurks about and make sure they know only you can protect them.

Marc

September 2nd, 2009
11:08 am

Security is now the by-word in the US and to many are willing to give up their freedom for it! The Patriot Act, Obama Health Care for that matter all of Obama’s initiatives. No responsibility I need to be taken care of! the American way.

octex

September 2nd, 2009
12:04 pm

I teach for a local high school in the city of Atlanta and two kids in my class are out with the H1N1.

TW

September 2nd, 2009
12:11 pm

C’mon, Bob. Not gonna defend McDonnell?

Stand for something…or you stand for nothing…

joe matarotz

September 2nd, 2009
12:12 pm

Bob, you’re still writing about this?

Jean

September 2nd, 2009
12:41 pm

Would someone please tell Bob Barr and Newt Gingrich to please go back to where they were when President Bush was in office, sit down and shut the F**k up, no one cares about what he thinks. He has had his time in the spot light and now it is time for him to ride off into the sunset, never to be heard from again.

Chris Broe

September 2nd, 2009
1:26 pm

Barr is ridiculing our institutional vigilance against disease epidemics. He would grin at the grim reaper at a time when a single child’s life is too much of a price to pay for unpreparedness. His Commander-in-Chief ambitions are being foiled by his own Commando-in-Mischief stupidity. Barr continues to sacrifice discretion for style, content for demagoguery, and decency for the journalistic equivalence of a self-administered groin scratch, (as satisfying as that sounds to most of his trolls in the very early hours of every morning after a marathon night of chat room hijinks and oh-so-clever double entendres).

C+

retiredds

September 2nd, 2009
2:04 pm

Dear Bob, as a person connected to Scouting I would remind you that the Scout Motto is “Be Prepared”. If you were the head of a school system with hundreds of thousands of students what would you say to all the boys and girls regarding H1N1? I am asking you to, in your column, tell us what your precautions would be. That would be much more helpful than just standing on the sidelines and bashing what some persons on the firing line deem necessary.

clyde

September 2nd, 2009
2:17 pm

Jean,
Bob serves a useful purpose.He supplies the vehicle wherein the real political heavyweights,aka the rest of us, can pontificate endlessly about issues that we really don’t know all that much about.

Thanks for being here ,Bob.

jconservative

September 2nd, 2009
2:36 pm

pd
September 2nd, 2009
10:05 am

Well said.

Jay "Numbnuts" Bookwoman

September 2nd, 2009
2:50 pm

Chris Broe – poster child for the phrase “Paranoia will Destroya”

dgroy

September 2nd, 2009
4:01 pm

Folks, the real point in Bob Barr’s (a Great American) article is……the US Government and all it’s departments don’t really know what’s going on, from Katrina to Health Care to Swine Flu to terrorists to defense, etc., We’re either underreacting or overreacting to almost every crisis, large or small. Bob Barr, a Great American, is only bringing this to our attention…..hopefully, somebody will listen.

joe matarotz

September 2nd, 2009
4:18 pm

Hey, Bobolink. How about an insightful column about how the SEC screwed the pooch with Bernie Madoff? I seem to remember that you didn’t cut BATF any slack on Waco. Now that might actually be a pertinent blog.

the evil rich

September 2nd, 2009
5:31 pm

Jean, if you don’t like it, don’t read it. We’re on to your bed wetting liberal agenda, sorry for ya! How’s that “TeddyCare” bill working for you?

John

September 2nd, 2009
10:55 pm

I agree with Pd. From my point of view, this is a little worse and more widespread than seasonal flu. Yet you don’t see headlines on the news :SEASONAL FLU KILLS OVER 9,000 PEOPLE IN ONE MONTH: The people who are freaking out freak out others. The Hysteria over this situation is extreme. The “no human to human contact”? all that’s going to do is make many VERY angry.

Piso Mojado

September 2nd, 2009
11:28 pm

As of August 27, there have been 8843 confirmed hospitalized cases of swine flu in the US, and 556 deaths. So the percent of hospitalized persons who have died is 6.28%.

But hey, the conservatives’ plan to address this problem seems pretty sound. Oh wait a minute, that’s right. They don’t have a plan.

Dave

September 3rd, 2009
2:35 am

In Australia, which (I might add) has a generally superior public health system to that of the US, we got quite strained during this flu season. Everyone carried on as normal, however there were school closures, workplaces instituted hand hygine protocols and flu clinics were set up to try and minimise contacts and get infected people to early treatment.

The idea was to slow down the wave, so that those who needed intensive care beds (and there were hundreds) got them. This flu is generally more benign than others, except for a certain percentage of people (such as asthmatics, pregnant women, people with other respiratory problems, and a certain “x%” of otherwise healthy young people). However when these people got sick they got damn sick and a lot of resources had to be thrown at them to keep them alive. The more people who get this at once the more preventable deaths will occur. A bit of prevention and planning will do a lot to minimise death and economic consequences. What is so wrong with that ?

Heath

September 3rd, 2009
4:06 am

I think the most damaging plague to hit the planet so far is the human race. We take take take and give little back.
I heard an estimate the other day that the Earth is overpopulated by double right now. That’s 3 billion people too many.
Something definitely has to give.

terry

September 3rd, 2009
7:41 am

I did not understand the statement that the USA is the only remaining super power.
From our perspective in Australia the USA has been in a state of decay while countries in our region such as China and India are on the rise. It is only a matter of time before the balance will shift.

mark merolli

September 3rd, 2009
8:48 am

Yet somehow here in the United States, the world’s only remaining superpower seems unable to keep a possible outbreak of the flu in proper perspective.

he thinks were still a superpower? WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!

Najibah Alima

September 3rd, 2009
7:35 pm

So far the swine flu has hit like a tsunami here in Mississippi. So I would understand a little hysteria by some, but so far, there’s been no deaths.

Reform Will Happen

September 4th, 2009
3:32 am

I am overwhelmed, Dr. Barr with your clinical acumen, and particularly your long and deep experience in infectious disease. It must have been that particular case law Federal Reporter in a you read when you were US Attorney but had the litigation experience of a stray dog.

These 36 kids dead kids had excellent medical care. It must be tragic that they were seen by Dr. Barr, who no doubt could have conferred “the proper perspective” on their care.

Bob Barr is oblivious to the fact that the promiscuous hording and shotgunning of Tamiflu and Relenza have made H1N1 resistance as high as 60% in some series for both drugs. Maybe Dr. Barr uses witchcraft to treat his patients.

Reform Will Happen

September 4th, 2009
3:39 am

I wonder if Dr. Barr will be gathering the parents of these dead children together to preach his own particular unique infectious disease regimen. The reception should be interesting.

The 36 kids that weren’t seen by Dr. Barr who died in the US:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/04/health/research/04flu-001.html?hpw

I wonder which particular case or code section taught Dr. Barr his particular infectious disease regiment for H1N1:

Stop the hysteria. Take reasonable precautions, and treat those who become ill properly.

Yet somehow here in the United States, the world’s only remaining superpower seems unable to keep a possible outbreak of the flu in proper perspective…Oh well, let’s not let a little irony stand in the way of alarmism.

But some of the children had been perfectly healthy, and died of bacterial infections with staph or strep that set in after the flu.

A report on the deaths was published online Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and discussed at a news conference by Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the centers’ director.

The report said the confirmed death count among people of all ages was 477 as of Aug. 8, but it focused on the toll on children.

The 36 who died ranged in age from 2 months to 17 years, with a median age of 9 years. Nearly two-thirds had nervous system disorders like cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy or developmental delays. Children with nerve and muscle problems may be at especially high risk for complications from the flu because they cannot cough hard enough to clear their airways.

Living in the Aporkalypse | Xenia Institute

September 4th, 2009
9:03 am

[...] The Barr Code | The President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, has the H1N1 flu. He apparently contracted it at a summit last week in Argentina. Uribe reportedly is continuing his duties as that country’s chief executive by phone and the internet while he recovers from the sickness at home. Don’t worry. The sky has not fallen on Colombia. The country’s infrastructure has not crumbled. That South American country’s economy has not ground to a halt. Life goes on. The country’s president is ill and he is recovering with proper treatment. Maybe there’s a lesson here. Stop the hysteria. Take reasonable precautions, and treat those who become ill properly. Yet somehow here in the United States, the world’s only remaining superpower seems unable to keep a possible outbreak of the flu in proper perspective. The recent, overblown “report” issued in mid-August by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology continues to be reported as fact, even though – as noted in this blog on Monday — the document was simply opining on one of many possible swine flu scenarios. And school districts around the country continue to take extreme measures, anticipating a calamity of historic proportions. One major school district on Long Island, New York — Nassau County — for example, is planning to ban all human-to-human contact, including hand touching, “high fives,” and even “chest bumps” performed by football players following a touchdown. Even as this school district is moving to implement such an unrealistic policy as “no human-to-human touching,” Nassau County health officials are reported to be stating publicly that ”hysteria should be avoided.” Local government officials have stated “they were more concerned about the possibility of widespread anxiety or panic” than they were about the “spread of swine flu” itself, even as they implement a policy designed to fans the flames. Oh well, let’s not let a little irony stand in the way of alarmism. [...]

Deborah Fetkovich

September 11th, 2009
1:39 pm

I urge anyone who wants to know the facts of what a killer H1N1 flu pandemic would look like in the US to read John M Barry’s “The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague In History”.

The fact is that the H1N1 virus of today is almost identical to the H1N1 virus back in 1917. It started then as mild, rather ordinary flu that happened to strike the young and healthy as opposed to other strains (the normal seasonal flu) that hit the very young, the aged, or the chronically ill. After a summer of isolated and few deaths, the flu raged back with lethal vengeance over the winter of 1918. During a single week in Philadelphia, 5,000 people died.

Horsedrawn carriages would ride through the streets collecting dead bodies. The amount of dead quickly overwhelmed the ability to bury and bodies were piled dozens of feet high, eventually to be bulldozed into the earth en masse.

Healthy young men would kiss their wives goodbye as the left for work in the morning, and drop dead in the middle of the street as they were heading for lunch breaks. An excerpt from a book review states:

“In this sweeping history, Barry explores how the deadly confluence of biology (a swiftly mutating flu virus that can pass between animals and humans) and politics (President Wilson’s all-out war effort in WWI) created conditions in which the virus thrived, killing more than 50 million worldwide and perhaps as many as 100 million in just a year. Overcrowded military camps and wide-ranging troop deployments allowed the highly contagious flu to spread quickly; transport ships became “floating caskets.” Yet the U.S. government refused to shift priorities away from the war and, in effect, ignored the crisis. Shortages of doctors and nurses hurt military and civilian populations alike, and the ineptitude of public health officials exacerbated the death toll. In Philadelphia, the hardest-hit municipality in the U.S., “the entire city government had done nothing” to either contain the disease or assist afflicted families. Instead, official lies and misinformation, Barry argues, created a climate of “fear… [that] threatened to break the society apart.” Barry captures the sense of panic and despair that overwhelmed stricken communities and hits hard at those who failed to use their power to protect the public good. He also describes the work of the dedicated researchers who rushed to find the cause of the disease and create vaccines. Flu shots are widely available today because of their heroic efforts, yet we remain vulnerable to a virus that can mutate to a deadly strain without warning. Society’s ability to survive another devastating flu pandemic, Barry argues, is as much a political question as a medical one.” http://www.amazon.com/Great-Influenza-Deadliest-Plague-History/dp/0670894737

Rather than doing too much, the current administration is doing too little. We are a nation of 300 million, yet the H1N1 vaccine is only being tested and it’s predicted we’ll only have 45 million doses. One of the reasons for this lack of vaccine is that we never enacted reasonable tort reform and nearly all of our pharmaceutical companies gave up the business of vaccine production to avoid lawsuits. We rely heavily on Great Britain and Switzerland to provide us with most of our vaccine supply.

We hear repeated pleas to wash our hands frequently, but has anybody heard anyone in Obama’s admin informing them that this particular virus survives on surfaces for up to 8 hours? You can wash your hands till the cows come home, but if you’re in school, you’ve also got to wash your desk each time that bell rings and you change classrooms. And what about using handrails when ascending and descending staircases? How do you play football or basketball when touching the ball can pass along a potentially deadly infection? Do those of you who press elevator buttons plan to disinfect them first?

We hear from the Administration to stay home if you feel sick. Well, okay… but do they tell us that people are highly infectious up to 24 hours before they have any symptoms? Do they tell us that if infected, it takes a week before the capacity to infect others is diminished?

So far, it looks as if this strain of H1N1 lacks the component of the previous generation influenza pandemic to become lethal, but it’s too soon to know this. The simple fact that officials are telling us that even under the best of circumstances, we can expect to have only enough vaccine for one out of every seven people is alarming.

We can pray that this strain doesn’t mimic the last and become as lethal. The odds are that it will not. But the odds were against “Mine That Horse” and he won the horse race. The reality is that it’s better to be well-informed so that we can make the decisions that we feel are best for ourselves and our loved ones. I suspect that lacking a Surgeon General as we head into a season of risky uncertainty, the Obama Admin is taking a paternalistic approach and deliberately avoiding releasing full information in order to avoid causing alarm.