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Swine flu hype has passed in Oklahoma but concerns remain

By   /   July 7, 2010  /   3 Comments

By ANDREW W. GRIFFIN

Oklahoma Watchdog, editor

Posted: July 7, 2010

andrew@oklahomawatchdog.org

OKLAHOMA CITY — It has been many months since the hype over the H1N1 virus – swine flu – died down. As Oklahoma Watchdog reported last fall, side effects were reported by those who took the swine flu vaccine and the hype has now been considered to be overblown since there was no serious pandemic as many feared. We also reported on swine-flu vaccine testing on human subjects here in Oklahoma as well, at Oklahoma City’s IPS Research.

“In Oklahoma, the pandemic is officially over,” said Vicki Monks, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City-County Health Department. “We still have vaccine. We are still willing to vaccinate people. Sporadic cases are  likely to continue through the summer. Cases are circulating through the Southern hemisphere.”

Monks told Oklahoma Watchdog that all but a few doses of H1N1 vaccine remain in Oklahoma. The rest have already expired and have been destroyed.

“We are still offering those,” she said of the remaining, unexpired H1N1 vaccine.

One interesting note Monks mentioned was that this fall the regular flu vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine will be combined into one. There were three different strains of influenza that circulated in the past year and one of them was the H1N1 strain, although not the one that caused the pandemic scare in 2009. Monks said she is working on a press release that will go out to the public in the next week or so.

Swine flu also appears to be on the mind of the editors at The Oklahoman. On their editorial page today, they addressed last year’s overreaction to the swine flu headlined: “Pro-active course helped keep H1N1 virus in check – Pandemic didn’t live up to billing in Oklahoma.”

Opines the Oke: “Oklahoma fared relatively well in the latest swine flu scare, despite having a vaccination rate lower than the national average. Perhaps we’re too inured to dire weather warnings to take a pandemic prediction as seriously as we should.”

Or perhaps we’re skeptical of being jabbed with vaccines that contain all manner of nasty ingredients ranging from mercury-laced thimerosal to formaldehyde.

Coincidentally, the Tacoma, Wash. News Tribune had a very similar editorial in their paper yesterday headlined: “Outdated vaccine production fed swine flu hysteria.”

There are already reports of swine flu making a comeback in India. “Swine flu situation grave in five states” reports the Hindustan Times this week.  However, this year health workers are reportedly refusing to take the vaccines: “Workers say they are afraid of the side effects,” reports NDTV .com. This Indian epidemic is spreading at “an alarming pace” according to another Indian news source.

Swine flu is also reportedly appearing in Australia, according to the Adelaide Advertiser.

And then there was a story out this week, featured on Recombinomics.com, that said a swine flu virus has reappeared and it “raise(s) concerns that this virus could quickly gain efficient and sustained transmission in humans, leading to a co-circulating H1N1 pandemic.”

Is there more swine-flu hype in our future? Only time will tell.

UPDATE (July 8, 2010): Vicki Monks, with the Oklahoma City-County Health Department emailed Oklahoma Watchdog with some follow-up information. Asked about swine flu, Monks emailed the following: “In Oklahoma we had 1,158 influenza-associated hospitalizations between Sept. 1, 2009 and May 29, 2010 – and 43 deaths.” She also included a CDC link that offers the “International Situation Update.”

And while she made the statement about the pandemic being declared officially over, Monks corrected this, saying that she was not able to officially confirm that.

And while The Oklahoman editorial said that the vaccination rate in Oklahoma was lower than the national average, “Oklahoma County had one of the better vaccination rates for metropolitan areas.”

Copyright 2010 Oklahoma Watchdog

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Andrew Griffin is a freelance journalist in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

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