H1N1 flu: not really an emergency, just preparedness


Some Northfielders are stocking up on groceries because of the government’s declaration of a swine H1N1 flu “public health emergency.”  I think that’s over-reacting, sort of like heading to your basement when there’s only a tornado watch. Even Janet Napolitano, Secretary  of the Department of Homeland Security, said “I wish we could call it a declaration of emergency preparedness.” But kudos to the City of Northfield for posting a swine H1N1 flu information page/widget on their website today. (continued)

I’d like to see the city’s swine H1N1 flu info page linked from the City’s emergency information page, too. And the Northfield Hospital’s Emergency Communication & Disaster Planning web page should have something as well.


  1. Griff Wigley said:

    I laughed when I saw the headline in the Strib this morning: ‘Not the time to panic over flu’ quoting some anonymous White House staffer.

    Um, under what conditions might panic be warranted?

    April 27, 2009
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Is Mayor Mary in charge of the swine flu situation or is she out playing golf like ‘No Drama Obama’?

    April 27, 2009
  3. Jane Moline said:

    Interestingly that the deaths are all in Mexico (none in the US yet.) THIS may not be the big one, but it sure would be good if everybody thought seriously about WASHING THEIR HANDS. (One of my big pet peeves–I wish we had flashing signs over the bathroom doors in restaurants that lit up if someone exits the restroom without washing their hands. A far side cartoon, by the way.)

    I suggest reading the “Hot Zone” and the “Great Flu Pandemic of 1917-1918.” One of the theories is that Woodrow Wilson was suffering from the flu when he was negotiating and signing the treaties that ended World War I–and had such clouded judgement resulting in the disasterous treaties that led to World War II.

    Shiploads of sailors would leave the US and arrive in Europe 20% dead and the rest sick with the flu during the war.

    Large numbers of people may get sick–and some will develop pneumonia–and then may die. In the 1917-1918 pandemic, if was especially fatal for those aged 25-45, striking down the healthiest and most productive members of society. Almost everyone in the US had a close family member die.

    If the world sees a new pandemic, it is predicted to quickly overwhelm our existing health care system, making it difficult to get medicine and treatment. But don’t panic yet. In 1917-1918, there was no air travel. Now sick people can move quickly and easily between countries, easily contaminating an entire planeload of people who return to their homes to infect their families, friends and communities. (What, you never caught a cold on an airplane?!)

    What me worry? They are unable to produce a vacine due to the mutations of the virus.

    I am not stocking up on groceries yet, but I don’t think it is a good idea to travel to Mexico.

    April 27, 2009
  4. Anthony Pierre said:

    Its your govt that thought cutting flu preparedness out of the stimulus package was a good idea.

    I can’t post a link here cause every time I do, it doesnt post. I admit its chapping my hide.

    April 27, 2009
  5. Jane Moline said:

    Griff: You are dissing the H1N1 virus. The new virus is “H1N1 NOVEL” virus.

    This one is bird to swine to people. The N1H1 was swine to bird to people.

    Everybody please get your flu shot this fall. Historical pandemics come in waves with the mutating virus sickening more people and killing more people in the second wave–which should be in about 6 months, so right in the flu season.

    If you are otherwise healthy, get the flu shot! If you don’t and do get the virus, it may not make you sick enough to die but it will certainly spread so that others more susceptible to the side affects may die. DO NOT BE A TYPHOID MARY! Get your flu shot.

    April 30, 2009
  6. Griff Wigley said:

    Webcast in 7 minutes:

    Health and Human Services Secretary
    Kathleen Sebelius and Homeland
    Security Secretary Janet Napolitano
    will host a Webcast to answer
    questions from the American people
    regarding the H1N1 flu on Thursday at
    1:00 PM ET.

    Sebelius and Napolitano will be joined
    by Acting Director of the Centers for
    Disease Control and Prevention, Dr.
    Rich Besser.

    April 30, 2009
  7. David Henson said:

    Ron Paul on the Swine Flu (maybe this is why the name change)

    May 1, 2009
  8. David Henson said:

    Ron Paul on the Swine Flu (maybe this is why the name change)

    May 1, 2009
  9. Peter Millin said:

    I am putting on my tinfoil hat for a minute here.

    Given that nearly 30000 people die of flu every year, why is there such a panic around the swine flu virus?

    Seems odd.

    May 1, 2009
  10. Peter Millin said:

    Napolitano??? She pretty much has lost all credibility, that woman is a disaster…yikes…

    May 1, 2009
  11. David Henson said:

    Peter, I think its like if a person moves from Northfield to Brooklyn. One is unlikely to survive there and will either die or evacuate. Most bugs can’t successfully cross species lines because its tough to: 1) get into the host (bus fare) 2) get into the host in big numbers (friends just want to hang out at the Cow) 3) survive in the host (find the way around) 4) thrive in the host (who you talking to) 5) not kill host before spreading (ok my analogy is breaking down) 6) find a means to move from one host to another 7) overcome advanced computer modeling and medical technology (in 1918 – I don’t think IVs were even readily available)

    But they are worried about that one individual who could move from Northfield to Brooklyn and get elected mayor taking over the mob connections and running the city like they owned it.

    Most the current flus kill elderly, very young or already sick. A new flu could be very serious because would tend to kill those most in contact with others (20-40 yo). I think in Mexico some of the deaths were amongst that age group. With our current US demographics this would be very bad. But I tend to think #7 above is underestimated as an additional road block, at least, in the USA.

    May 2, 2009
  12. Peter Millin said:

    Thanks David.

    But didn’t we have already a similar flu in 1976?

    May 3, 2009
  13. Jane Moline said:

    The H1N1 virus is unique and not a virus we have already had. The swine flu virus of 1976 was a serious outbreak that, fortunately petered out.

    Regular flu kills close to 40,000 Americans every year. As stated earlier, most that die have compromised immune systems. A pandemic, like the 1917-1918 Spanish Flu pandemic killed 35 MILLION people world wide. It killed more than 665,000 Americans–more people than we lost in the Civil War plus Vietnam.

    The death rate of otherwise healthy people was extremely high–risk age being 25 to 45.

    If we have a flu virus, which by nature is easily transmitted by breathing the virus–so sneezing and coughing spread it–and IF it mutates to something that has a high kill rate in otherwise healthy hosts–well, models show more than 1 million people would die in the US. In spite of superior health services (over 1918.)

    Part of the problem is that the health care system would be easily overwhelmed because of the high number of ill citizens–we don’t have enough Tamiflu for everybody, so it would have to be rationed. We don’t have enough hospital beds so they would have to be rationed. We don’t have enough respirators, so they would have to be rationed. Health workers and rich people would get first dibs. The rest of us would be waiting in line and hoping our kids don’t need that respirator.

    In a pandemic, the second wave historically has been the killer. Six months from now. The question will be if everyone gets their flu shot and then also gets the special swine flu shot (which won’t be ready until after September 1, and maybe much later) and we actually duck having a pandemic in spite of some of the side affects of the flu shots, which will scare some people off from getting them, so they will get the flu, and spread it among the population, innoculated or not.

    Flu vaccinations do not give 100% immunity. You can still get the flu even if you have had a shot. (And your dog can still get rabies even if they are vaccinated.) So the best defense is to innoculate as much of the population as possible to reduce the chance of anyone being exposed.

    The flu virus is naturally efficient, so it is the one that gets around the most. It is easily transmitted and quickly takes over host cells and manufactures millions of replica virus that are spread by the host until the host either succums or their immune system shuts that flu down. In the 1917-1918 pandemic, those that died had the most efficient immune response–and there is a theory that their immune system reaction was so efficient at killing of all of the contaminated host cells that it killed TOO MANY host cells, killing the host. That is why the strong and healthy died.

    May 3, 2009
  14. David Henson said:

    Peter, a similar scare yes. A similar flu ??? I would think this, or any flu, is statistcally unlikely to be the major killer the media claims. To me these seem like “spooky times” so one has to wonder if this scare is just piling on or legit? If they start claiming we need universal health care to deal with the coming flu then I think we have our answer 😉

    May 4, 2009
  15. Jerry Friedman said:

    While stopping any disease is important to discuss, I wish some attention was spent on prevention.

    Smithfield Farms with the graces of NAFTA built a pig killing factory in Mexico and evaded the U.S.’s more stringent regulations for environmental protection and hygiene.

    One’s first impression would be that NAFTA is at fault, or Smithfield for making a profit at the world’s expense. What consequences are there for NAFTA and Smithfield? More than a censure, I hope.

    Beyond that, does anyone want to count how many diseases we get because of eating animals or using them for human medicine? H1N1 and other flus, HIV, mumps/measles/chicken pox, small pox, e. coli, salmonella. There are 150 known zoonotic diseases, those that are shared between human and nonhuman animals. (See http://www.tc.umn.edu/~devo0028/zoonos.htm)

    We’ll keep having pandemics until we change our eating and medical habits.

    Jane: Sorry, no vaccine for me. But I’ll wash my hands! I’d rather practice good hygiene and not introduce disease and foreign objects into my body.

    May 9, 2009
  16. David Henson said:

    Jerry, the more markets are regulated then the bigger producers need to be in order to meet those regulations. At some point enough regulation actually provides a big competitive advantage to the super producers (who spend lobby dollars to add more) and lead to monopolistic enterprises. This is not to argue against all regulation but liberals often have no business background and thus do not understand the contradictions within their political positions.

    On the eating animals, as humans have eaten domestic animals – human populations have grown and we live longer life spans. There maybe arguments against eating meet but longevity impacted by disease is not one of them.

    May 10, 2009

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