Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The cure was worse than the disease

I don't know why I happened to remember this, but I did. Back in the mid-1970s, during the Ford Administration, there was great concern about the possible public health effects of an outbreak of swine flu. The flu outbreak itself was relatively minor, but the vaccine that the federal government encouraged everyone to get had serious side effects.

Wondering if I remembered this right, I did a Google search and found this Los Angeles Times article that tells the story. The death of a soldier at Ft. Dix in New Jersey raised concerns that the deadly influenza virus that killed so many people in 1918 had returned. More than 40 million US citizens received a vaccine against the flu. More than 500 people contracted a disorder that causes temporary paralysis from this vaccine, and 25 people died.

In the current wave of concern about the H1N1 flu virus that has spread internationally, I think it's well to remember that it may be impossible to predict exactly what will happen with an outbreak of any contagious disease. Ironically, reports that "Acting CDC Director Richard Besser...said U.S. health officials are examining whether people who received flu shots for the swine flu in 1976 may have some level of protection from the current swine flu."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I took the shot, with no ill effects. The wait in line was the only problem I had with it.