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Op-Ed: Public Was Warned About H1N1 At Onset, Will They Remember That?

By KJ Mullins     Oct 30, 2009 in Health
In April the world learned of a new flu-swine flu or as it is now known H1N1. The media was very quick to cover the story about a flu that was hitting Mexico which could be the pandemic we had been warned about.
The good news was that the death toll was fairly small at the time. The bad news was that the public started saying that the media was on overdrive and just scaring the masses. That was then.
I was one of the first journalists at Digital Journal to cover the early days of the swine flu. During that time many were puzzled by the huge media coverage of a flu that appeared not to be as dangerous as the press was saying.
At that time I emphasized that the danger was not so much then but the fall. I am sad to say that dire prediction has held out.
The media has a tough road to walk when it comes to warning the public about health threats. If the threat doesn't appear in the time period it is being reported the media is called on it. This past spring is a perfect example.
The medical field knew that the largest threat would be this fall as the seasonal flu period merged with a novel flu. The past told the story. Spanish flu was the model that the experts were using and for good reason.
With the Spanish flu the initial outbreak was fairly mild. That was not the case when the fall came and millions died. From the beginning the experts knew that if H1N1 presented like the Spanish flu this fall would be a disaster for health agencies. They wanted those agencies to be prepared. The World Health Organization pushed for a vaccine to be made and tested in time. WHO warned in the spring that it was not going to be easy and there was a high chance that a vaccine would not be prepared in time. They were right.
While there is a vaccine it does take time to produce the quantities needed to protect the entire world population. This flu is different than most as it hits a younger population with at times fatal results.
Children are dying now. There isn't enough vaccine. Some in the private sector are crying out that they were not warned in time.
The realities of the influenza virus is that it is a virus. Viruses do not respond to medications like other illnesses. When it comes to a vaccine often doctors can only treat the symptoms, there isn't a cure for the disease itself. Some drugs like Tamiflu can help to prevent or shorten the course of the disease but it is not a cure all.
There is a vaccine on the market but it has very little time for through testing. It is possible that deaths have come from the vaccine.
With so many ill during the spring with mild disease it is unclear the true numbers. It is also unclear if those who were ill had H1N1. Doctor offices were told not to test unless there was severe disease because of the high numbers of sick.
The public though was warned of all of this from the onset of the swine flu invasion. The over reporting turned off some when it appeared that it was a possible hoax, that swine flu was not as dangerous as it was said to be.
Today H1N1 is a major concern. Areas are having to triage outside of hospital walls as the sick run to get help.
It appears the worst fears may be a reality. The public was warned of this from the onset. Will the public remember that?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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