In September 2009, I caught Swine Flu during the semester when I was at Cornell in Ithaca. It was brutal.

For the first time I understood how the flu could kill someone.

It went straight for my lungs. It felt like someone parked a truck on my chest, and I had high fever. I was lucky to be able to get to a doctor before it became really bad and was given Tamiflu and the types of inhalers people with asthma use to keep my lungs open. I needed refills on the inhalers, and I’m convinced they kept me alive.

The good news was that I lost 15 lbs. in two weeks, and fit into clothing I hadn’t fit into in years. The bad news is that I almost died to get there, and gained the weight back in a month.

I was not alone. 700 people at Cornell contracted Swine Flu by September 2009, whereas the much larger Syracuse University an hour north had only 5 cases, showing how unpredictable the spread was.

A Cornell student with a preexisting respiratory condition died. I wrote at the time, Cornell Loses Student To Swine Flu:

With the politics which seems to dominate all our lives, it is easy to lose sight of what matters most.

This afternoon the Cornell University community lost one of our undergraduate students to swine flu. As the father of three college-age students, my heart goes out to the family.

As someone also sidelined with swine flu myself, I implore you not to take the symptoms lightly.

I thank the Obama and Bush administrations for the advance planning for an outbreak.

Be smart and safe. And say a prayer.

The Swine Flu statistics were staggering, according to this CDC publication:

The (H1N1)pdm09 virus was very different from H1N1 viruses that were circulating at the time of the pandemic. Few young people had any existing immunity (as detected by antibody response) to the (H1N1)pdm09 virus, but nearly one-third of people over 60 years old had antibodies against this virus, likely from exposure to an older H1N1 virus earlier in their lives. Since the (H1N1)pdm09 virus was very different from circulating H1N1 viruses, vaccination with seasonal flu vaccines offered little cross-protection against (H1N1)pdm09 virus infection. While a monovalent (H1N1)pdm09 vaccine was produced, it was not available in large quantities until late November—after the peak of illness during the second wave had come and gone in the United States. From April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010, CDC estimated there were 60.8 million cases (range: 43.3-89.3 million), 274,304 hospitalizations (range: 195,086-402,719), and 12,469 deaths (range: 8868-18,306) in the United States due to the (H1N1)pdm09 virus.

The NY Times reported on October 24, 2009 that 1,000 people already had died in the U.S.:

President Obama has declared the swine flu outbreak a national emergency, allowing hospitals and local governments to speedily set up alternate sites for treatment and triage procedures if needed to handle any surge of patients, the White House said on Saturday.

The declaration came as thousands of people lined up in cities across the country to receive vaccinations, and as federal officials acknowledged that their ambitious vaccination program has gotten off to a slow start. Only 16 million doses of the vaccine were available now, and about 30 million were expected by the end of the month. Some states have requested 10 times the amount they have been allotted.

Flu activity — virtually all of it the swine flu — is now widespread in 46 states, a level that federal officials say equals the peak of a typical winter flu season. Millions of people in the United States have had swine flu, known as H1N1, either in the first wave in the spring or the current wave.

Although there has been no exact count, officials said the H1N1 virus has killed more than 1,000 Americans and hospitalized over 20,000….

The department [of Health and Human Services] first declared a public health emergency in April; Ms. Sebelius renewed it on Tuesday. But the separate presidential declaration was required to waive federal laws put in place to protect patients’ privacy and to ensure that they are not discriminated against based on their source of payment for care, including Medicare, Medicaid and the states’ Children’s Health Insurance Program.

There was a sense of panic with the Swine Flu, but nowhere near the hysteria we are seeing now regarding Wuhan Coronavirus, certainly not at this early stage.

But I do remember that then, as now, Democrats and the media tried to blame Republicans, specifically spreading false claims that Republicans had prevented funding pandemic preparations (sound familiar?). I wrote the prior April 2009, when Swine Flu first emerged, how the media was misrepresenting the preparedness,  The Truth Is The First Victim Of Swine Flu.

There is a big difference between then and now. It was not an election year. Obama was in his first year of his first term. Trump is in the fourth year of his first term, so the Wuhan Coronavirus media frenzy combines real panic with hyperventilated anti-Trump news coverage.

Two things are true at the same time: Wuhan Coronavirus should be taken seriously as a public health danger, and Democrats and the media are trying to weaponize it for election purposes. They want this so badly to be Trump’s Katrina or Chernobyl.

Keep things in historical perspective. Viruses kill lots and lots of people, despite preparation and treatment. So don’t take Wuhan Coronavirus lightly. But that doesn’t mean you need to panic.

Prepare, but don’t let the media panic you.

 

 
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