You may not have 'caught it' or 'heard it' with all the news of late, but the 2009 H1N1 Influenza Pandemic is now declared to be 'OVER' per the same World Health Organization (WHO), who announced it in the first place--a cause for celebration to be sure.
It turns out that this pandemic flu variant was NOT the 'Big One' many of us who 'follow these things' feared it might have been. And that's good. But let no one be fooled into thinking that the 2009 H1N1 'bug' has disappeared for good, for it hasn't. What the experts tell us is that it has merely been manifesting itself 'more like the regular seasonal flu' we have learned to live with over the years.
Where, why and how the 'Swine flu' (a term we health care workers were advised to NOT use) of 2009 settled down is NOT EXACTLY KNOWN, though theories abound. Thus, we must remain vigilant. Here's WHO's 2009 H1N1 link for you check out for yourself: http://www.who.int/csr/disease/swineflu/en/index.html (HEY do I see usage of the word "SWINE" HERE?? But, anyway...)
My favorite line of the month is one spoken by the Director-General of WHO, who said, "No two pandemics are ever alike". That line is almost as amusing as the one that I have in response to, "When will I see you?". My snappy answer is, "When the poop hits the fan". Of course I only say that when I am fairly certain the someone I am speaking with has a good sense of humor and who can appreciate mine.
Maybe WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan's quote is more ironic than anything else. Here it is in it's entirety if you are curious: "As I said, pandemics are unpredictable and prone to deliver surprises. No two pandemics are ever alike. This pandemic has turned out to be much more fortunate than what we feared a little over a year ago." Did she say 'FORTUNATE'? Why yes she did and here's the link: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2010/h1n1_vpc_20100810/en/index.html
Sure hundred of millions, if not over a billion, were spent on vaccines for the 2009 H1N1 and 2009 Seasonal Flu. Sure millions of doses were 'dumped' after not being needed and/or as their expiration dating called for it. Some would say last year's vaccination program was one big waste of taxpayer money, but I beg to differ.
Those of you in lower Fairfield County may have met me at one of the H1N1 Vaccination Clinics. I've been a 'first responder' for many things over the years around here. I volunteered at the vaccine clinics for some very good reasons.
Not the least of these was having studied and tracked various communicable diseases since 1964, I feared that 'this could be the one' and so I wanted to be on the 'front lines'.
I was the one--who as a gifted and upcoming student--relished being granted access to the 'reactor pool catwalk' at uber-radioactive Brookhaven Lab on Long Island, for Pete's sake. I don't have the BRAINS to be scared of the kind of 'nerdy things' most people flee from. My history of 'front line service' is nothing new and if I weren't 'cut out for it', I don't believe I would be here to tell you what I am about to tell you, simple as that.
I wanted to be able to help from Day 1 if it was a Pandemic we would be facing. Since I have unique qualifications as a biochemist well-versed in both traditional and alternative biomedicine, I'm kind of useful in many ways.
And that I am 'clergy', I felt, might make my services even more valuable, God forbid that a full-blown pandemic should break out, with attendant need for comfort and consolation; I know I'm good at that.
Pandemic scenario involvement is not for everyone. True, many health care providers are 'mandated' to help out, as are government agency members from certain areas, along with law enforcement, our military and some social service non-profits.
But the truth is that in disasters, not everyone is a willing volunteer. Not all can cope and not all who are mandated to serve will do so. This is where I can honestly say that my faith provides me with the 'inner-strength' I need to do what I do.
The best kind of heroes in my mind are the kind who 'actually show up' and who 'do what needs to get done or undone'. This concept is easy to speak of, but is not so easy to actually witness when a REAL-LIFE situation presents itself.
Personally, I was grateful to be with those of you I know during our 'H1N1 time of need' and it was marvelous to meet those of you in this area who I didn't know previously, despite the conditions. And no offense, but I hope we never 'meet' like that again, if you know what I mean.
I thank God in Heaven that we have the 'Type A influenza subtype H1N1' outcome that we do...meaning that the Pandemic of 2009 is now officially considered to be 'OVER'. We are all now free to resume worrying about the many other things we are prone to fret about.
But please, those of you who might be inclined to bemoan a 'waste of money in the 2009 Type A influenza subtype H1N1 Vaccination Program', please DON'T! Ordinarily I would be first amongst us to decry 'medical money waste', but I don't in this case. Please let me explain.
Yes, some doses..Alright MANY doses...of H1N1 Influenza (Swine Flu-a term we healthcare providers were not supposed to use) vaccine were deemed subpotent.
Yes, the batches were rushed.
Yes, expiration dating on many batches were changed and then changed again...to the point of, yes, in some cases 'justifying' the 'throwing out' of so-called 'expired batches' which, truth to tell would never be used and some justification had to be made to throw the stuff out!
(Surely, those of you who receive my FREE NEWSLETTER were kept up-to-date on all of this, with all the bells and whistles and links you could ask for. Sign up by emailing me with your request and your contact information at: BarbaraKSexton@aol.com )
Well, I'm here to tell you that the scenario above is in no way all that unusual and it is done in order to help the public be more 'complacent' when it comes to vaccine-production shortages, overstocks, insufficiencies and errors in the 'efficiency and efficacy' of the 'drugs, modalities and treatments' we technical types like to talk so much about.
What I'm trying to say is that if you believe ANYTHING I've told you so far about the H1N1 Pandemic of 2009, please believe that it was 'money well spent' this last go-round for you and for your family and loved ones.
The U.S. government and public and private agencies did their very best to try to keep us all safe at a potentially scary time. Global agencies like WHO, likewise, kept as good control and tracking as they could in this day and age of jetliner travel where pathogens have no borders WHATSOEVER.
I'm not giving any vaccine manufacturers any passes in general, but in this case I am going light on them, for I believe they did their best. We are grateful that not as many died as could have and we learned a very great deal about dealing with the inevitable 'real' Pandemic (which will likely be an influenza strain, in my opinion) yet to come. We had some real on-the-ground training and all that is very good and very useful.
Sometimes people ask me, "Where is your congregation?" and I answer, "Right here with you". Usually that conversation is held in a hospital room, at Tully's Day surgery waiting room, amidst a group of grievers or on the streets of Stamford doing whatever God has in store for me. I just never know.
Lately, I even might be spotted at a political meeting or two, but I am not the type of 'pastor' that you are likely to WANT to run into, since it will probably be during something unpleasant and you will likely be in need of healing as much as medical and emotional, if not financial help. This is all on my mind right now since I recently wrote about my 'involvement' in Stamford on September 11, 2001 and the next two years afterwards dealing with aftermaths.
So it seems that it is appropriate to close this piece about the GOOD NEWS that the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic is OVER officially on paper, at least. But it isn't really and anyone with any sentience at all has the sober realization that that Pandemic is by no means over for everyone.
It is not over for the loved ones of the 18,449 people (according to WHO, anyway) who died during this pandemic, as confirmed by lab findings.
It is not over for those who lost loved ones to the many MORE deaths due to 2009 Influenza A pandemic who died without 'laboratory-testing confirmation'. Look at the chart at the link below. At least WHO has the compassion to use the term 'at least' when recording 'the of deaths': http://www.who.int/csr/don/2010_08_06/en/index.html
Least of all, I cannot imagine that the 2009 H1N1 pandemic will EVER BE OVER for those who lost children to it. Just so you know, the CDC stats covering the pandemic period are for the United States are as follows:
285 2009 H1N1 pediatric deaths
53 Influenza A-Subtype Unknown pediatric deaths
3 Seasonal Influenza pediatric deaths
341 TOTAL pediatric deaths
for the latest Apr.26, 2009-May 22, 2010 CDC reporting period
next update due Oct, 2010) Link: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/
Look at the world 'Death Maps' for the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic and reflect upon how people in more than 214 countries and overseas territories or communities lives were inexorably changed by death and/or illness. And here is the 'CDC' link for you: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/
I will not report on how many pediatric deaths there were for the 2009-2010 influenza A/H1N1 season IN THE WORLD, for I cannot come up with what I feel is a valid statistic from any source. But I do believe that if America lost at least 341 precious children, then the rest of the world lost thousands, least.
I know my life was changed by the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic, as was yours. I was blessed by those I met and by those I saw so eager to serve their fellows. I saw what's good about us as a society and witnessed the incredible caring that people can manifest for each other--when it counts.
It's a good thing, too, for none of us is guaranteed anything NEAR safe-passage on this whirling globe of life in the midst of a teeming pool of microbes. Those little critters--some are destined to SUSTAIN us in this life, like the 4-6 POUNDS of bacteria we carry in our colons every day. Believe it or not, it is thanks to these same putrid gut bacteria that we go 'dust-to-dust' in a natural setting. In a most convenient way, our bodies start to decay after death in the 'lower left abdominal area with a greenish-blue hue' indicating efficient bacterial putrefaction.
Yet other microbes are here to DELIVER US from our earthly life, like flesh-eating bacteria, renegade E.coli species. and smaller yet viruses like the ones which cause influenza and the even smaller yet 'prions' of 'Mad Cow Disease'.
How we handle this is up to each of us, alone. That we humans are at risk of infection is no longer up for debate. But I will give you the 'heads up' that the vaccine for the 2010-2011 flu vaccine will protect against three different flu viruses: an H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus and the H1N1 virus, based on WHO recommendations which our CDC has apparently agreed with: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/1011_vac_selection.htm
Just so you know, the H3N2 virus which infects humans is both a bird AND a swine influenza virus. What flavor lollipop do you want?
For you in Christ,
Reverend Barbara Sexton
"The Biblical Biochemist-Where Science Meets the Cross"
My favorite 'Infectious Control Specialists: I seem to remember Dr. Michael Parry of Stamford Hospital likes the 'cream soda' ones best , but I'm not quite sure of Dr. Arthur Yee of Norwalk Hospital's favorite!-Rev. Barbara Sexton "The Biblical Biochemist-Where Science Meets the Cross"
WHO Declares End to 2009 H1N1 Influenza Pandemic
On August 10, 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee and the WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, declared an end to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. This declaration was based on strong indications that influenza, worldwide, is transitioning toward seasonal patterns of transmission.
In the majority of countries, out-of-season 2009 H1N1 outbreaks are no longer being observed, and the intensity of 2009 H1N1 influenza virus transmission is lower than that reported during 2009 and early 2010. Members of the Emergency Committee further noted that the 2009 H1N1 viruses will likely continue to circulate for some years to come, taking on the behavior of a seasonal influenza virus.
This does not mean that the H1N1 virus has disappeared. Rather, it means current influenza outbreaks including those primarily caused by the 2009 H1N1 virus, show an intensity similar to that seen during seasonal epidemics. Pandemics, like the viruses that cause them, are unpredictable. WHO noted that continued vigilance is extremely important, and it is likely that the virus will continue to cause serious disease in younger age groups and pregnant women, at least in the immediate post-pandemic period.
The WHO Director-General ended the Public Health Emergency of International Concern in accordance with the International Health Regulations (2005). More information about the WHO declaration is available on the WHO website at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2010/h1n1_vpc_20100810/en/index.html
Implications for United States
This is a formal WHO declaration regarding the end of the pandemic at the global level. The U.S. Public Health Emergency determination for 2009 H1N1 Influenza expired on June 23, 2010.
The only impact on the United States resulting from the WHO declaration will be a cessation in weekly reporting under the International Health Regulations (IHR) to the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization. CDC has reported weekly to IHR since early in the pandemic.
There are no changes for the United States in terms of CDC’s recommendations for the upcoming influenza season and the United States is already proceeding with the understanding that the 2009 H1N1 virus is now part of seasonal influenza virus circulation.
As is customary, beginning in October, 2010, CDC will provide weekly reports of influenza surveillance information throughout the season with the publication of FluView available at www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly .
Protecting Yourself and Others from Influenza
CDC recommends a three-step approach to fighting flu: vaccination, everyday preventive actions and the correct use of antiviral drugs if your doctor recommends them. The first and most important step in protecting against the flu is to get a flu vaccine each season.
The U.S. 2010-2011 influenza vaccine will protect against an H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus, and the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus that caused the first global pandemic in more than 40 years and resulted in substantial illness, hospitalizations and deaths. In the United States, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recently recommended that everyone 6 months of age and older be vaccinated against influenza each season. Pregnant women, young children, and anyone with underlying health conditions like asthma, diabetes and neuromuscular diseases are at especially high risk for influenza-related complications and, therefore, should be vaccinated as soon as vaccine becomes available. Vaccine manufacturers are predicting an ample supply of influenza vaccine for the upcoming 2010-2011 U.S. influenza season.
Influenza (the flu) is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Anyone can get sick from the flu. For more information about influenza and how to protect yourself and your family