Mystery Disease in Texas, H1N1 Pandemic and All is Not Right in Kansas

I have been doing more research on H1N1 and two and two are not adding up. I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, but I am presently inclined to say that the 2009 Swine Flu Pandemic should never have been labeled a pandemic and I fear the real H1N1 pandemic may lie ahead of us.

Swine Flu Deaths in 2009

The CDC estimates that 12,470 Americans died in the 2009 Swine Flu pandemic. [1] This figure represents the mid-range estimate. To be precise, the CDC estimates that between 8,870 and 18,300 Americans died from H1N1 from April 2009 to April 2010.

The CDC has to rely on estimates because in the U.S., doctors are not required to report cases of influenza in patients over 18. The CDC estimates are drawn primarily from data on laboratory confirmed cases, and then configured to estimate the total number of cases. (The CDC estimates that for every lab-confirmed case, there are other non-confirmed cases. They arrive at a figure (in the case of H1N1 that figure is 2.3). The CDC then multiplies the number of confirmed cases by 2.3 to arrive at the estimated number of cases.) The bottom line here is that we don’t have accurate numbers.

Why don’t we have accurate numbers? Here’s the answer straight from the horse’s mouth:

CDC does not know exactly how many people die from seasonal flu each year. There are several reasons for this. First, states are not required to report individual seasonal flu cases or deaths of people older than 18 years of age to CDC. Second, seasonal influenza is infrequently listed on death certificates of people who die from flu-related complications. Third, many seasonal flu-related deaths occur one or two weeks after a person’s initial infection, either because the person may develop a secondary bacterial co-infection (such as bacterial pneumonia) or because seasonal influenza can aggravate an existing chronic illness (such as congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Also, most people who die from seasonal flu-related complications are not tested for flu, or they seek medical care later in their illness when seasonal influenza can no longer be detected from respiratory samples. Sensitive influenza tests are only likely to detect influenza if performed within a week after onset of illness. In addition, some commonly used tests to diagnose influenza, in clinical settings, are not highly sensitive and can provide false negative results (i.e. they misdiagnose flu illness as not being flu.) For these reasons, many flu-related deaths may not be recorded on death certificates. These are some of the reasons that CDC and other public health agencies in the United States and other countries use statistical models to estimate the annual number of seasonal flu-related deaths. Flu deaths in children were made a nationally notifiable condition in 2004, and since then, states have reported flu-related child deaths in the United States through the Influenza Associated Pediatric Mortality Surveillance System. [2]

So the CDC’s mid-range estimates of the number of U.S. deaths from H1N1, is 12,470. The second point is that the number of estimated deaths (although already inflated) does not warrant the title “pandemic”. Seasonal influenza kills more people in a typical year than Swine Flu killed in 2009.

Over a period of 30 years, between 1976 and 2006, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. [3]

Let me be a bit more specific. In the 2003-2004 season, an estimated 14,715 Americans died from seasonal influenza. [4] In the 2004-2005 season, an estimated 14,446 Americans died from seasonal influenza. [4] In the 2005-2006 season, an estimated 11,784 Americans died. [4] The dominant strain from these years was H3N2. [4]

A Question

If H1N1 in 2009 was no more fatal than seasonal influenza H3N2, why was H1N1 2009 labeled as a pandemic?

Real Pandemics of the 20th Century

This question is compounded when we look at the three great pandemics in the 20th century: (1) Spanish Flu in 1918-1919, (2) Asian Flu in 1957-1958, and (3) Hong Kong Flu in 1968-1969.

The Spanish Flu was by far the worst. An estimated 50 million people died worldwide and 675,000 people died in the U.S. Approximately 20 to 40 percent of the population contracted the disease. What strain caused the Spanish Flu? It was H1N1.

Please let me digress a bit on the Spanish Flu. The Spanish Flu did not originate in Spain. It was called the “Spanish” Flu only because Spain was neutral during WW1 and had no censorship on the media. As such, media in Spain were free to report the carnage. In the U.S., England and France, the folks in charge did not want to dishearten their citizens and so censored the reports. This censorship resulted in the appearance that the pandemic began in Spain.

There is disagreement among scholars as to where it began. The most widely accepted theory is that it began at Fort Riley, Kansas. Another very interesting theory is that the Spanish Flu began in 1916 at a major troop staging area in France named Etaples. (For an excellent documentary on this second theory, see American Experience, The Influenza Pandemic of 1918.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYbRVgu4j_Y

The two other pandemics of the 20th century were the Asian Influenza and the Hong Kong Influenza. The Asian Influenza hit the U.S. in 1957. It began with sporadic clusters and then hit hard in September and October, as children returned to school and brought the disease home to their families. A second wave hit in January and February of 1958. It is estimated that 69,800 Americans died. Most of the deaths occurred among the elderly. [5] The Asian Flu was caused by H2N2.

The third worst influenza epidemic of the 20th was the Hong Kong Flu. The virus was first detected in Hong Kong in early 1968. It spread to the U.S. in September 1968. The virus peaked in December 1968 with an estimated death count of 33,800. [5] The Hong Kong Flu was caused by H3N2.

Mid-Article Summary

As I have meandered quite a bit in this article let me summarize the point at which we have arrived. The three great epidemics of the 20th century killed far more Americans than the Swine Flu Pandemic of 2009.

Hong Kong Flu 33,800
Asian Flu 69,000
Spanish Flu 675,000
Swine Flu 8,870

2003-04 Seasonal Flu 14,715
2004-05 Seasonal Flu 14,446
2005-06 Seasonal Flu 11,784

As the chart above shows, the three great pandemics of the 20th century were far more devastating than the 2009 Swine Flu. The seasonal influenza from 2003 to 2006 (H3N2) killed as many Americans than the 2009 H1N1 Swine Flu “Pandemic”. And the three major pandemics of the 20th century were far worse than the 2009. Our question: Why was 2009 H1N1 ever called a pandemic?

Definition of “Pandemic”

I’m afraid it gets worse. The WHO (World Health Organization) changed its definition of “pandemic” so the Swine Flu could be labeled a pandemic. Researcher Peter Doshi has leveled some serious allegations. [6] Let me quote his work at length:

In 2009, governments throughout the world mounted large and costly responses to the H1N1 influenza outbreak. These efforts were largely justified on the premise that H1N1 influenza and seasonal influenza required different management, a premise reinforced by the decision on the part of the World Health Organization (WHO) to label the H1N1 influenza outbreak a “pandemic”. However, the outbreak had far less serious consequences than experts had predicted, a fact that led many to wonder if the public health responses to H1N1 had not been disproportionately aggressive. In addition, concern over ties between WHO advisers and industry fuelled suspicion about the independence and appropriateness of the decisions made at the national and international levels.

Central to this debate has been the question of whether H1N1 influenza should have been labelled a “pandemic” at all. The Council of Europe voiced serious concerns that the declaration of a pandemic became possible only after WHO changed its definition of pandemic influenza. [6] Notes Omitted

Here’s the root of the controversy. The traditional definition of “pandemic” has three components: (1) new disease, against which the populace has little to no immunity (2) widespread infection—i.e., person-to-person transmission, and (3) high morbidity. Here’s a the definition as it appears on a 2003 WHO website:

An influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus appears against which the human population has no immunity, resulting in several simultaneous epidemics worldwide with enormous numbers of deaths and illness. [6]

Yet as Doshi notes, the third component of this definition was dropped just one month before Swine Flu was declared a pandemic by the WHO. Doshi writes:

The phrase “enormous numbers of deaths and illness” had been removed and the revised web page simply read as follows: “An influenza pandemic may occur when a new influenza virus appears against which the human population has no immunity. [6]

According to the traditional definition, the 2009 Swine Flu was not a pandemic because it did not cause “enormous numbers of deaths and illnesses.”

So what is going on here? Can we really trust the reports from the CDC and the WHO? The fact that these institutions are in bed with the corporations that manufacture vaccines and anti-viral medications is cause for concern.

1977 H1N1 Lab Escape

I wish to suggest that the WHO and the CDC are such large organizations that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. I came across an interesting bit of information in a CDC report from June, 2010. [7]

H1N1 was first detected in the U.S. in a 10 year old who was a participant in a clinical study. [7]

Infection with this new influenza A virus (then referred to as ‘swine origin influenza A virus’) was first detected in a 10-year-old patient in California on April 15, 2009, who was tested for influenza as part of a clinical study. Laboratory testing at CDC confirmed that this virus was new to humans. Two days later, CDC laboratory testing confirmed a second infection with this virus in another patient, an 8-year-old living in California about 130 miles away from the first patient who was tested as part of an influenza surveillance project. There was no known connection between the two patients. Laboratory analysis at CDC determined that the viruses obtained from these two patients were very similar to each other, and different from any other influenza viruses previously seen either in humans or animals. [7]

Let me pause here to note a few things: H1N1 was the same strain that caused the Spanish Flu. H1N1 disproportionately affects younger people. This was the case both in 1918 and in 2009. It disproportionally affects young people today.

Now, throughout the 20th century when one influenza strain appeared, the older strain disappeared. Scientists have traced the genetic history of all the major flu strains since 1918. (Note: Scientists recreated the Spanish Flu from samples taken from an Intuit Indian frozen in permafrost in Alaska.)

Here’s a bit of history on the genetics of influenza. H1N1 caused the Spanish Flu in 1918. It infected so many people that it burnt itself out. In the early 1950s H1N1 morphed into H2N2. H1N1 disappeared for 20 years. The reemergence of H1N1 is widely believed to be the result of a laboratory escape.

The most famous case of a released laboratory strain is the re-emergent H1N1 influenza A virus which was first observed in China in May of 1977 and in Russia shortly thereafter. This outbreak marked the return of a seasonal H1N1 human influenza virus after a nearly 20-year absence following its displacement during the 1957 H2N2 pandemic. Scientists quickly realized that something was unusual about this re-emergent H1N1 strain; it was genetically similar, though not identical, to an H1N1 isolate from 1950. Initially it was suggested that this virus could have lain dormant or evolved slowly in non-human hosts for decades, but it is now generally assumed that the virus was kept frozen in a yet unidentified laboratory. The glaring discrepancy between the amount of inferred evolutionary time and amount of sequence evolution leading to the 1977 outbreak provides evidence supporting this conclusion. [8]

I suspect that the reason H1N1 disproportionally affects younger people (and disproportionally affected people in the northern hemisphere) is that folks alive in 1977-1978 in Russia and China were exposed to the virus and built up immunity.

1976 Swine Flu Debacle

It gets even weirder. In 1976 there was an outbreak of Swine Flu at Fort Nix, New Jersey. Army Private David Lewis died while on a 50-mile hike through the New Jersey snow with his platoon.

What happened to Private Lewis and the rest of his platoon? Here’s one report:

Doctors from the Centers for Disease Control tested Private Lewis’ blood, and determined that his immune system had developed antibodies to a strain of flu similar to the Spanish influenza of 1918. That particular strain of swine flu produced the worst human pandemic of the 20th century: 1 billion sick in every country of the world, at least 22 million dead in the space of a few months. If Lewis had been exposed to something like the 1918 flu virus, the world could be in for an extensive and lethal outbreak. CDC doctors, charged with protecting the U.S. from epidemics, began to worry.

By the end of January, 155 soldiers at Fort Dix reported positive for swine flu antibodies. None of the soldiers’ families or co-workers, however, had been exposed to the virus; all of the reported swine flu cases had been limited to the soldiers in Private Lewis’ camp. The virus wasn’t spreading. For some reason this information did not mollify the doctors, and on Feb. 14, 1976, the CDC issued a notice to all U.S. hospitals to be on the lookout for any cases of swine flu. [8]

In 1976 public health officials urged a mass vaccination program against H1N1. 40,000 Americans were innoculated against an epidemic that never materialized. [10] In all, there was only one death, Private Lewis. The inoculation program was halted only after media reports surfaced of the negative side effects of the vaccine–side effects such as the rare Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a paralyzing, and sometimes fatal, neuromuscular disorder. [11]

Summary

So let’s work backward. In 1918 50 million people died of H1N1. This strain circulates as seasonal flu until 1957 when it evolved into H2N2. There is no trace of H1N1 until 1976 when it pops up at Fort Dix. There is only one H1N1 death in 1976, the soldier at Fort Dix. But that year the U.S. government undertakes the largest inoculation campaign in U.S. history—roughly 25 percent of the U.S. population is vaccinated. They had plans to inoculate 95 percent of the population but media reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome put an end to the vaccination program. By then it had become apparent that the 1976 Swine Flu epidemic was the epidemic that never happened.

The following year WHO and CDC officials announce that H1N1 had escaped from a lab in Russia or Northern China. This was believed to have caused the 1977-78 Russian Flu epidemic.

In 2005 researchers at the CDC in Atlanta recreate the H1N1 strain that caused the Spanish Flu from lung samples taken from the exhumed Intuit frozen in the Alaskan permafrost. [12] Researchers in the U.S. and Canada began injecting this strain into ferrets and monkeys to see what would happen. (The ferrets and monkeys died.)

H1N1 re-emerges in 2009 and the WHO declares it a pandemic although morbidity and mortality rates are lower than seasonal influenza.

Mystery Flu in Texas

H1N1 is again the dominant strain this year and states, especially states in the Southeast and Midwest, have reported a significant increase in Swine Flu deaths, including the “mystery flu” disease in Texas. The 2009 outbreak was the result of a triple reassortment of H1N1. Could the mystery flu in Texas be evidence of another reassortment?

Here’s what we know so far. In the final week of 2013, a total of 2,578 specimens were tested in Texas. Of these, 1,063 were positive for influenza. Of the positive samples, 1048 were positive for Influenza A and 15 were positive for Influenza B. (Note: Only Influenza A causes epidemics.) Of the samples that tested positive for Influenza A, only 26.5 percent were subtyped. (That means we are missing information on nearly 75 percent of the cases.) Of the samples that were subtyped, 99.3 percent tested positive for H1N1 and .7 percent tested positive for H3N2. [13][Read full article]