Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Wed, Oct 05 2005

Symptoms Presenting Themselves

President Bush's remarks concerning military personnel as police during a possible birdflu pandemic were disturbing to me in more ways than one. His mention of Tamiflu® might have sounded more reassuring if I hadn't been reading that that there is a high likelihood that the virus will become resistant to it in the near future.

The birdflu strain has the capability of a high mortality rate. But let's not kid ourselves. Handing out anti-viral drugs is not without consequence. The side effects of Tamiflu (PDF file) occur in a small percentage of patients, about one percent. But they're very real side effects. And if you're talking about handing the stuff out to millions of people you can expect a corresponding number of those to experience side effects. Different people do respond to the drug in different ways.

We still don't really know what will happen to babies who might be given these kinds of drugs. Will the drugs not be given to them at all because of that lack of knowledge? And what happens when babies consume breast milk from women taking these drugs? Do we know? This drug is excreted through the bladder, which tells me it goes through your kidneys. So we'd all better have really healthy kidneys to begin with. And for the stuff to be helpful, a patient has to start taking it within the first day or two of symptoms. I take it this means everyone with a sniffle would be encouraged to take the drug in the event of a real or perceived pandemic. Indiscriminate use of such drugs is partly what causes a virus to become resistant to them, from what I understand. But how will they keep people from wanting to take a drug for something they think they have that they're afraid will kill them?

Even vaccines, if developed, cause side effects in a certain percentage of the population. None of these things is going to be perfect. A lot of people will be adversely affected, not only by birdflu itself, but by the adverse effects of these countermeasures. Tension from the talk of miltary personnel acting as police may become secondary really quickly as the mortality rates become real. Military personnel and health professionals are not naturally immune to birdflu either, so we can plan on some of them falling ill and even dying.

Once you put together the fear of federal martial law, the fear of the birdflu and the fear of the drugs and vaccines used to fight the virus, the real pandemic we're talking about is fear. And frightened people sometimes react in desperate ways.

For now, I'm going to concentrate on some simple, practical things like getting myself into a bit better physical condition in order to increase my natural immunity. It may not be much, but it will give me something positive to concentrate on while our politicians spin the aftermath of Katrina into some movie-of-the-week vehicle for their particular party's benefit. There's definitely a viral fever going 'round that ought to concern us. But it's a fever we won't stop with drugs or vaccines.

posted at: 08:41 | category: /Politics | link to this entry



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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
and cattle rustlin'! Lightning may strike
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