The assumption that an epidemic of H1N1 influenza (Swine flu) may kill as many as 90,000 Americans supports Congress allocating billions of dollars to hasten preparation, acquisition, and delivery of a questionably effective vaccine…perhaps.
We saw a similar reaction to the potential for an Avian Influenza (Bird flu) epidemic a few years ago, which netted billions of taxpayer dollars to vaccine manufacturers as well as the CDC.
And who can forget the extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR TB) crisis of two years ago. This was the case of a young man, Andrew Speaker, who had been diagnosed with tuberculosis and traveled overseas to marry his fiancee, after his doctors told him he was not prohibited from traveling. Upon learning of Mr. Speaker’s case, then CDC Director Julie Gerberding held a press conference where she sounded the alarm of a renegade TB patient traveling the world and potentially sparking an epidemic. Gerberding launched a public relations extravaganza that included, among other stunts, issuing a Federal Isolation Order ( something that is intended for only the most grave of public health threats), which resulted in world wide hyper-concern and the patient’s forced quarantine with armed guards posted outside of his hospital room. The hoopla put Gerberding in the international spotlight (her favorite place) and netted boatloads of taxpayer dollars for her agency. It turned out that Mr. Speaker didn’t have XDR TB.
On the other hand, we know that some 100,000 people are killed annually from preventable diseases, such as MRSA, VRE, and C. difficile, that are routinely spread to them in hospitals (not to mention another 100,000 or so who are killed by medical errors). Yet a scant $50 million is just now going to be distributed not to hospitals, but to state health departments to assist hospitals in developing infection control programs. Wanna bet almost nothing of that pathetic bone thrown at this four-decade-long public health disaster winds up going to hospitals to actually control the spread of these deadly bugs?
One wonders about the underlying reasons for the contradiction. Maybe it’s like they ask before marketing a new product that looks good on paper…"Yes, but will it fly?" In other words, "How much can we make on this?" It seems that when it comes to Swine flu the answer is "Yes, pigs really do fly!"