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musings, insights and other thoughts from Shonda Parker - Fear-Mongering About Swine Flu
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Fear-Mongering About Swine Flu 
Fear-mongering is a problem and might just have been the thing a fellow Facebook friend was attempting to address with her link yesterday morning to Dr. Mercola’s YouTube clip about the declaration of a National Public Health Emergency, for which she was promptly challenged by a public health advocate with the question, How can a state of National Public Health Emergency not benefit us as citizens? I think the fair citizens of this nation would find accurate statistics more compelling in being able to appreciate a declaration of National Public Health Emergency rather than statements regarding swine flu which cannot be verified by the nation's own CDC, which ceased tracking swine flu numbers July 24th, tracking now only “influenza-like illnesses” and has also announced in its MMWR the quick test for swine flu had only a 40% chance at accuracy. In fact, all tests for swine flu, or novel H1N1, were rushed to market without adequate testing due to the state of emergency declared.

So, how do we not benefit as citizens by a National Public Health Emergency? Well, let’s talk about the powers granted during a state of National Public Health Emergency:
• More of our, the citizens, money is freed for an already over-spending administration to spend, further increasing our national debt, and the risk to our future economy;
• Unapproved tests may be, and were, rushed to market without adequate testing for accuracy (www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5837a1.htm?s_cid=mm5837a1_e), and drugs may be given to children, pregnant women, and others in high risk groups which otherwise are considered not okay for those groups due to risks with the vaccine components, an example of which would be the recent override of the “no thimerosal” in vaccines – thimerosal is a mercury-containing organic compound used as a preservative in vaccines (mercury is toxic to humans in small doses) (www.cdc.gov/Flu/about/qa/thimerosal.htm);
• Potential travel bans may occur, which has the potential to harm US businesses which rely on travel abroad, further undermining the faltering economy;
• More people will go to the doc's office or emergency rooms for flu-like symptoms and possibly be isolated and quarantined, resulting in higher costs of healthcare and loss of work-time, and over-treated - there is a very real risk to citizens to the effects of antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu, not to mention the problem of increasing resistance of some flu strains to anti-virals ( given indiscriminately to everyone for fear they “might” have H1N1 and “might” be one of those who have serious complications (www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5835a1.htm?s_cid=mm5835a1_e);
• Citizens could be forced to have a vaccine they do not choose to have and one that is already showing very real risks to the citizenry. Informed consent? Not an issue during public health emergencies, at least not a problem for those with the power to make you take it;
• Citizens could be forced to stay home from work in areas of outbreak, potentially undermining family solvency and thus the overall economy. Now, I’ve long been an advocate (see post below) of staying home when you’re ill. But, let’s see, if the public were made aware they need to stay home while ill, or until an exposure period has been exhausted, there’d be a way to lessen spread without resorting to mass quarantine of the well in addition to the sick.
These are just a few things that pop into my mind, and I have not even watched the Mercola clip.

I share the public health advocate’s belief that fear-mongering is a problem…even when it comes from an administration with its own ends to achieve. This administration has an extremely high stake (the push for universal healthcare) in making the public confident in the government’s ability to handle its citizen’s healthcare effectively and with rapid response. Rapid response to a perceived threat, I grant. A safe, effective, and informed response, utilizing real numbers rather than “guesstimates,” appears lacking.

Transparency is vital in public health to achieve citizen’s confidence with public health measures. The problem at this juncture is the CDC's abrupt cessation of tracking of swine flu cases (novel H1N1), the continued reporting of "swine flu" cases/deaths now that swine flu is not being tracked apart from all other strains of flu and in fact, reporting now includes “influenza-like illnesses,” rather than confirmed influenza of any type. This has the appearance of generalized fear-mongering with the numbers not adding up. www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcHdmnTbH9Q

For several good reasons, it is not illegitimate for the citizens to have - and voice - concerns over the President's response to swine flu and concerns regarding a state of National Public Health Emergency declared as a means to an end of what is essentially an extension of governmental powers, complete with more government funding. Sure, Dr. Mercola and others may achieve some form of monetary or influence benefit from raising their concerns from citizens who are interested and offer up their money to be used by these folks. The difference here is an important one: A President declaring a National Public Health Emergency is not informing the citizens and asking for those who are interested to give their money; the state of emergency allows the administration to take citizens' money (tax monies) without their consent.

Do I, as a citizen, have a right to voice my concern? Sure, I just did. Am I fear-mongering? Nope, don’t think so. I don’t get paid to say this, and I don’t have a goal in mind other than to encourage folks to become informed rather than simply rush out for a vaccine that may, or may not, be safe and effective; to consider prevention measures; and to voluntarily stay home while ill with a flu-like illness unless symptoms become severe or a secondary infection requires a doctor visit. Do my friends who post links to Dr. Mercola get to be labeled fear-mongering? Nope, they pretty much just want another side to be shown to the unsubstantiated fear-mongering going on with inflated numbers.

Let’s see, the definition of fear-mongering is the use of fear to influence the opinions and actions of others towards some specific end. Why is reporting on the real numbers being called “fear-mongering” so citizens can make an informed decision about what interventions they will or will not choose to access, while using “guesstimates” to achieve mass vaccination – without a proven safety and efficacy history – and to have people to assume swine flu if they have an influenza-like illness, rush for additional doctor/ER visits, and use anti-virals is called being responsible in caring for the public health?


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