“ Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assaults of thoughts on the unthinking. ”
John Maynard Keynes

Confessions of a Serial Prover

Click here for translations


A space for anything and everything that seems worth sharing and which I don't plan to write a bigger piece on. The odd (!) rant. Invitations to think “outside the box” on all sorts of matters. “Weather reports” on the energies of the moment. Insights provided by the latest proving. Updated as and when I've got anything to say and the time to say it. (I may also update existing posts from time to time if they seem to need expansion and clarification.)

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Pigs might fly

" It is becoming ever more obvious that it is not famine, not earthquakes, not microbes, not cancer but man himself who is man's greatest danger to man, for the simple reason that there is no adequate protection against psychic epidemics which are infinitely more devastating than the worst of natural catastrophes. "
Carl Gustav Jung

May 07 2009

Pigs might fly

Haven't we been here before?

And I'm not talking about 1918, but the avian flu scare that took flight at the end of 2005. About the only upshot worthy of note from that little global panic attack was the fat profits made by Roche Pharmaceuticals in the wake of their highly successful Tamiflu® marketing campaign that saw governments stockpiling the stuff with the idea of dosing every member of their populations. But since the goose that laid the golden egg has now well and truly flown the coop on that one, I guess it's time for the viral marketing specialists to jump species and give it another go. After all, it's a well tried and successful formula and we seem to fall for it every time.

A few journalists, like Simon Jenkins in The Guardian and Deborah Orr in The Independent, have tried injecting a strong dose of at least some reason into the general hysteria, but to little avail. This morning the postman dropped an NHS leaflet entitled "Important Information About Swine Flu" on my doorstep. (You can download a copy here if you don't already have it.) This "public information" campaign is really scraping the trough when it comes to trying to spin a convincing yarn (as well as aiming itself at a reading and comprehension age somewhere around the 7-10 year-old mark). Take these extracts for instance

"Because it's a new virus, no one will have immunity to it and everyone could be at risk of catching it."

Err, well, um ... That's actually true of the vast majority of flu outbreaks. Viruses mutate. That's part of their job desciption. This year's flu isn't the same as last year's flu or the year before or the year before that, (which is one of the principle reasons why vaccinating people against last year's flu with the aim of protecting them against this year's is so nonsensical, at least if you're coming from the perspective of disease prevention and prophylaxis).

"Pandemic flu is different from ordinary flu because it's a new virus that appears in humans and spreads very quickly from person to person worldwide."

That's not actually the definition of a pandemic. The principal criterion for a pandemic is the number of people affected (the word comes from the Greek 'pan' = all and 'demos' = people). This is necessarily far in excess of an epidemic, which itself is a widespread and prevalent occurence of a particular disease that quickly and severely affects a large number of people. Swine flu isn't even coming close to approaching an epidemic yet.

To put this in even clearer perspective, since January, around 13,000 people in the US alone will have died of complications from "ordinary" flu, It's estimated that "ordinary" flu kills between 250,000 and 500,000 worldwide annually.

Modern medicine also seems to continually forget this, but the difference between "ordinary" flu and flu that becomes a pandemic is as much to do with the people it infects as it is anything to do with the virus itself. In 1918, the world had just been through 4 years of the first World War. War is an intense and devastating trauma that substantially lowers the immunity of entire populations affected by it. We're not in that space right now. Though give the global recession a few more years and who knows ...?

In the last swine flu panic in 1976 we were told that thousands might die and to prevent that 40 million US citizens were vaccinated. Thousands developed permanent paralytic nervous problems and dozens died from the vaccine. Only one person actually died from the flu, and it never moved outside the Fort Dix area in New Jersey where it was first identified.

Of course the stockpile of Tamiflu® (oseltamivir) purchased back in 2005-06 will be coming to the end of its shelf life soon. If there were reason enough to get governments to distribute it all to their populations (though not before demand is stoked to fever pitch by empty pharmacies – pharmacies emptied by people who've paid $100 a prescription for a course of the drug), then the storehouses will be bare again and ripe for refilling. What's more, if the flu isn't actually that bad to begin with, then the "success" at preventing worldwide population devastation can all be attributed to the drug! Bingo! What better way of ensuring continuing healthy profits during a global recession? Or of boosting the reputation of a drug which, at best, seems to shorten the duration of the flu by a mere 24 hours, and at worst will have you vomiting, coming out in skin reactions, suffering cramping pains, headaches, deafness and insomnia, and even commiting suicide? (And let's keep quiet about the fact that the CDC have detected widespread oseltamivir resistance in nearly all of the influenza A (H1N1) viruses tested so far during the 2008--09 season.) Jings, this is all so easy! We could all be pigs at the trough chowing down on fat salaries as pharmaceutical industry strategists!

Cynical? Moi?

HEALTH WARNING: If you intend taking Tamiflu, and especially if you're considering giving it to your children, PLEASE read this site first.

May 07 2009 | | | Permalink

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Thanks to the current insanity revolving around homeopathy in this country, in both media and blogosphere, it's become necessary to insult your intelligence by explicitly drawing your attention to the obvious fact that any views or advice in this weblog/website are, unless stated otherwise, the opinions of the author alone and should not be taken as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you choose to take anything from here that might be construed as advice, you do so entirely under your own recognisance and responsibility.

smeddum.net – Blog: Confessions of a Serial Prover. Weblog on homeopathy, health and related subjects by homeopathic practitioner Wendy Howard