H1N1 Virus Anxiety
As fears mount worldwide that we are on the brink of a major flu epidemic that could rival the 1918 pandemic that took its toll on millions, it's time to pause for some reflection.
It is by no means certain that this flu outbreak will be widespread. There is evidence that it may be so. That said, the mortality rate from infection is far from certain. Just today a World Bank worker became the first documented case of h1n1 ("swine" flu) infection. He has made a full recovery.
This virus should serve as a potent reminder of the dangers of influenza in general. Each year 36,000 Americans die from influenza. These include people of all ages and all medical conditions including previously healthy young people. More of us should avail ourselves of the availability of yearly vaccines (not completely effective, but still helpful).
Speaking of vaccines, it would be prudent to remember the outbreak of this same virus in the 1970's. In the panic and rush surrounding that "epidemic in the making," a vaccine was made quickly available. The problem was that the vaccine had its own toxic side effects. One reporter recently noted that more people died from the vaccine than from the virus. So caution is needed to prevent history from repeating itself.
Speaking of history: we may be in the process of making it, but we should also learn from it. In thinking back to the swine flu infection of the 1970's, did our government and health care establishments review the decision-making chain that caused the situations reviewed above? Just a few years later, the CDC, the health care system, community groups and a host of other organizations and individuals in leadership positions were confronted with another epidemic in the making. History will recall with grief the lack of a concerted, coherent response in the earliest days of what would become the AIDS epidemic. A comprehensive review of those days is to be found in Randy Shilts seminal work "And the Bad Played On."
What has been remarkable has been the lack of an intense review of what went wrong. Consider that as that epidemic was raging through various communities, Congress occupied itself with the Iran-Contra Scandal and more money was spent in the Savings and Loans debacle than to marshal legislative and financial resources against what would become the biggest global infectious killer of that generation.
Recall how some prominent researchers in the medical establishment put personal fame and glory ahead of quality research and compassion for the infected. Recall as well the hospital rooms where food trays were left just inside the door just close enough inside to avoid contact with an infected person but far enough away from the patient so that s/he could not reach it.
This time around, it is hoped that calm and thoughtfulness will prevail as those who have responsibility for the public good make decisions that could well determine whether or not h1n1 will be a footnote in medical history or a "before and after moment" in the annals of human history.
This is a point in time that demands the best of everyone. For the common good, everyone can follow our President's advice and wash our hands and cover our mouths when we cough. Responsible individuals at the CDC and elsewhere in our national and regional health management systems should avoid panic responses and make well thought out decisions after very careful deliberation.
And what of people of faith? This may be the time that we care called not simply to pray for healing, but to be vehicles of it. It may be our turn to embrace the leper. It may be a lot of things. It is time for us to be a calming presence around those around us so that fear does not carry the day. Remember that God's messengers in Scripture always greet their mortal hosts with these words, "Fear not!"
April 30, 2009; 1:39 PM ET
Faith and Healing
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Posted by: coloradodog | April 30, 2009 8:58 PM
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Posted by: CCNL | April 30, 2009 6:35 PM
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