Tuesday, April 28, 2020
We are ALL GOING TO DIE!!!
A LONG RANT
I have been around Infectious Diseases, Microbiology, Eldercare, Infection Control and “pandemics” and other crises for near 50 years. So maybe that allows me to have my own perspective.
I was not born in time for the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 which killed millions and millions. My first influenza pandemic was in 1957-8 followed in 1968 with the “Asian Flu (H2N2). I don’t remember much about getting sick with either and obviously I didn’t die, so it is fair to say I survived my first pandemics without any problems.
In 1976, when I first became a trainee (resident) to become an Infectious Diseases physician was a special year. First there was the H3N2 pandemic and then suddenly there was a second outbreak in an army camp in New Jersey (Fort Dix) that spread quickly. This second one (the Swine Flu) scared everyone because it was an (H1N1) just the Spanish Flu.
Everyone (well almost everyone) agreed. This is it!! I was TOTALLY convinced.
The US President at the time (Gerald Ford) created a “gold medal advisory panel” which some real superstars, like Jonas Salk, and Albert Sabin, the creators of the polio vaccines. The politicians decided that the only solution was to create a new vaccine and immunize everyone immediately. Have to be seen to be leading. Sabin, both brilliant and bold (he tested his oral polio vaccine on himself) was never happy with the hurry up vaccine. In a New York Times editorial, he said that while he agreed with the decision to create the vaccine and thought preparedness for an outbreak was good, he criticized the "scare tactics" used by Washington to promote mass vaccination (“scare tactics”… sounding familiar?). He suggested stockpiling and waiting to see what might happen.
Sabin lost the battle and the mass immunization started, but he turned out to be right and the charge-aheads were wrong. Some 450 people were paralyzed with a vaccine related syndrome called Guillain-Barré syndrome. The government relented and stopped the ill fated hurry-up vaccine program.
Despite the absence of vaccination, the outbreak burned itself out, and the sun rose. Despite the absence of vaccine, (and no “social distancing”) the world survived.
Over the next bunch of decades leaders have repeated this same exercise. Most times it was influenza, other times HIV or West Nile Virus, or St. Louis Encephalitis, or other coronaviruses (SARS, MERS). Occasionally they decided to go extreme because of bacteria - C. difficile diarrhea or antibiotic resistance (MRSA). The message was always the same. We are all unsafe… the world is coming to an end… we are all going to DIE!!!!!
Today is just the latest version; “experts” who know exactly what to do, and politicians and the media all prepared to run with them. They run their SCARE TACTICS, and spout stuff that sounds like science instead of opinion.
This time has had its own twist: Shelter-in-place, snitch on your neighbours, hide in your basement. “socially distance”, keeping count of “cases” on an hourly basis. If Hippocrates was around, he would remind us "First, Do NO Harm"
We will forever remember this as the great panic-demic of 2020.
This time it will be just like the Spanish Flu of 1918. But think about it… 1918 was the last year of World War 1. Europe was a mess. Food was not plentiful. Most homes did not have running water or indoor plumbing. There was no refrigeration, no food storage. Intravenous rehydration was in its infancy (no disposable needles). There were no antibiotics. Therapeutic oxygen was only being experimented with for poison gas in 1916-17 (Modern use of oxygen didn’t start until 1962). The “modern medical and nursing care” of the time in NO way resembled the care we have available today. There were NO laboratories to help diagnose diabetes, infection, sepsis, kidney failure, or strands of viral RNA.
So how exactly is this “just like 1918”?
This panic-demic speaks more about the nature of us as a species. We have these great brains, but we seem to prefer to use them to experience horror movies like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist and The Night of the Living Dead. We love virus movies like Andromeda Strain and Outbreak and Contagion. We construct fear stories and convince ourselves of the dangers solar eclipse and the boogeyman under the bed, and witchcraft and devil worship and changing clocks (remember Y2K). Each time it is the same: “… well sure before it was shameless hype and hysteria, but this time, THIS TIME, IT’S REAL!
“Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”