In the fall of 1918, two young Portuguese shepherds contracted a virulent form of swine flu during a global pandemic that took the lives of 50 to 100 million. Francisco Marto barely survived the flu and died of complications, most likely a secondary bacterial infection, in April 1919. His sister Jacinta subsequently developed tuberculosis and died in February of 1920. With their cousin Lucia dos Santos, they are better known today for having witnessed the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima.
Francisco and Jacinta likely would have survived the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic if modern antibiotics had been available. Science has subsequently assembled an impressive database for virology and immunology as well as more effective vaccines, antiviral medications and intensive care interventions for flu complications. Despite these advances there are increasing deaths, especially among pregnant women, the young and the healthy due to the current swine H1N1 pandemic, which has striking similarities to the Influenza A (H1N1) virus responsible for the 1918 pandemic. Both are noted for precipitating cytokine storm, an overreaction of the immune system that floods the lungs and can lead to multi-organ failure and death. Unlike 1918, the feared second wave during September of 2009 failed to produce a massive surge in fatalities. Complicating the debate, the scientific world is split on the implications of recent minor genetic changes in the virus and the best available options for prevention and treatment in the face of a possible third wave later this winter.
A good illustration of the dissension within the scientific community can be seen in the work of David Fedson, MD. Specializing in the epidemiology of influenza and vaccination, Fedson served as Director of Medical Affairs for Aventis Pasteur MSD and was a member of numerous US and World Health Organization (WHO) committees on influenza immunization. Having worked extensively within the field, he continues to believe that safe effective vaccines are the gold standard in preventing deaths from pandemic flu, but also grasps the inherent shortcomings of our reliance on flu vaccines and antiviral medications such as Tamiflu. A December study in the British Medical Journal has drawn into question the general effectiveness of Tamiflu, and due to a minor genetic mutation (known as H274Y) seasonal H1N1 flu is now 99% resistant to Tamiflu. There have been increasing reports of the H274Y mutation in 2009 swine H1N1 samples. Viral genetic drift, which helps a virus evade a hosts immune response, can also render pandemic vaccines ineffective, and global pandemic vaccine production capacity is only sufficient to immunize approximately a billion people, less than 1 in 7 of the worlds population. Fedson is an ardent promoter of adjuvants as an essential antigen sparing method to stretch limited supplies to vaccinate as many as four times as many individuals.
An interview with Fedson exploring these issues was published in July in L'Osservatore Romano as part of their coverage of the G8 Summit meeting. For over five years Fedson has been campaigning for research on the use of currently available generic medications to help control the cytokine storm precipitated by novel influenza strains. Targeted drugs include statins and fibrates (currently used for lowering cholesterol and triglycerides), glitizones (used in managing diabetes) and Resveratrol (a chemical in red wines and peanuts thought to be responsible for lowering rates of heart disease). Until recently, his pleas fell on deaf ears at the CDC, WHO, The Gates Foundation, and other major philanthropic organizations. Headlines this fall finally vindicated his efforts. Research funded by the CDC indicated that among people hospitalized with seasonal influenza, those taking statins were 50% less likely to die.
Susan Chu, MD was a cosigner of Fedsons seminal 2006 letter to The Times (UK) urging research on this issue. An editor of the popular newfluwiki2.com website, Chu parts company with Fedson when it comes to the use of adjuvants in flu vaccines. Chu has posted a series of essays at newfluwiki2.com about the possibility of adjuvants causing autoimmune disease and spontaneous miscarriages. The medical literature and vaccine manufacturers simply have not provided adequate documentation to allay Chus concerns, though Fedson maintains that, with 40 million adjuvanted vaccines administered so far in Europe, such complications would already have been widely reported. Adjuvant promoters also point to a possible additional benefit, the potential of cross protection via broader immunity to pandemic viruses that displays genetic drift away from the original vaccine target. Recent minor genetic mutations (known as D225G) that have been noted in samples from the Ukraine and Norway were also seen in the 1918 and H5N1 influenza strains. These mutations are associated with infections that strike deeper in the lungs, causing widespread damage to alveolar cells and triggering cytokine storm, increasing virulence and death rates. One Ukraine specimen with this minor genetic mutation was characterized as a low reactor, indicating that current vaccines might not be as effective against strains with this mutation.
An additional concern is an immunological concept called, ironically, Original Antigenic Sin (OAS). According to the OAS theory the immune system will create a robust immune response to a novel virus, but if the individual is subsequently infected with a strain of virus closely related to the first strain, the body reacts as if it were being reinfected with the original strain, failing to confront the mutated virus. This could have implications for the minor genetic variations noted between waves of any given pandemic flu. Individuals infected with the spring 1918 pandemic wave had at least partial immunity to the fall 1918 wave, but little or none to the Winter 1918/1919 wave. Fortunately, the 2009 H1N1 Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine (LAIV) nasal spray appears to have included the D225G variant. The injectable inactivated vaccines do not, and no one in the medical community can foretell the significance of this at present.
The evolutionary explanations for these mutations are being hotly debated among the scientific community and point to one of the greatest controversies among virologists. The current genetic theories of random mutation and viral reassortment, representing the reigning orthodoxy at the CDC and WHO, simply cannot explain the appearance of some of these mutations among widespread samples and differing genetic backgrounds. Henry Niman, PhD, is the leading proponent of a relatively new theory of homologous recombination to explain and predict such mutations, and his company, Recombinomics, hopes to cash in on the ability to predict such changes to better guide vaccine production. By shear tenacity he has managed to drive the online flu community towards his point of view, and in the process has precipitated wider access to genetic sequence data online. His signature comments, Release of sequences would be useful and [the genetic mutation du jour] is cause for concern have become both a thorn in the side of mainstream science as well as a rallying cry among the online flu community seeking transparency from government labs and influenza researchers.
The scientific establishment points to a lack of peer reviewed publications supporting Nimans theory of recombination, but the recent ClimateGate controversy has illustrated the tyranny and political correctness of the peer review process. As in the global warming debate, the mainstream position isnt holding up to scrutiny. Tamiflu resistance is becoming too widespread to continue to claim it is randomly popping up in multiple patients simultaneously, or that resistance to Tamilflu makes the virus less able to spread. In France, one fatal case contained both D225G and Tamiflu resistance mutations. According to Niman, low reactors to current vaccines due to the virulent D225G mutation along with increasing prevalence of Tamiflu resistance could create the perfect storm for a deadly third or fourth pandemic wave later in 2010.
Fortunately, some common concerns expressed since early in the pandemic cycle have been settled. Current pandemic vaccines do not utilize any technologies that are intrinsically objectionable from a pro-life perspective, and there never was any validity to claims that current pandemic vaccines might be used for population control purposes. Brian Clowes, PhD, is director of research at Human Life International, and exposed the use of abortifacient hCG hormone-linked Tetanus vaccines in third world countries in the early 1990's. When asked if current pandemic vaccines might be used for population control purposes, he stated that although sterilization vaccines are still being researched, they are only used by western nations against the third world countries targeted in the 1974 National Security Study Memorandum 200.
By mid December, at least 200 million doses of pandemic flu vaccine had been administered globally, and the complications that were feared, based on the infamous 1976 Swine Flu vaccine campaign, have simply failed to materialize. Though GuillainBarré syndrome has not become an issue in the current vaccine campaign, there have been some credible reports of increased allergic reactions and anecdotal reports of miscarriages associated with adjuvanted vaccines. The non-adjuvanted pandemic vaccines have displayed a safety level similar to seasonal flu vaccines, but it is still too early to tell whether current vaccines will actually prevent deadly infections during subsequent waves of influenza.
Most of the hysterical claims regarding the current pandemic have originated among promoters of alternative medicine, who insist that herbs, vitamins and other natural remedies can prevent and cure influenza. While proclaiming that the pandemic declaration itself is a hoax or conspiracy, theyll be happy to sell supplements to the credulous, and adjust their flow of energy for optimum immune response. A central theme of the new age Gnostic alternative health field is the notion that the human body should be symptom and disease free, simply as a result of living a "healthy" lifestyle, and therefore able to overcome any illness. Unfortunately, this concept implicitly denies that disease entered human history as a result of Original Sin and continues due to personal sin. Gluttony and sloth arent bad lifestyle choices because they disturb karma or displease Gaia, they are cardinal sins that have temporal consequences. Obesity, diabetes and heart disease are the highest risk factors in the current pandemic.
Mainstream medicine has been neutered in its ability to address modern lifestyle choices, be they nutritional, behavioral, or sexual, because the scientism that animates modern medicine is non-judgmental. This scientism promised a utopia of health, happiness, and freedom from disease, and eventually the answers to all human questions and problems, but also forbids the intrusion of traditional morality into modern mainstream medicine.
Decembers headlines, H1N1 Pandemic a Dud, may be true. Or the mounting viral mutations could cause a brutal third wave later this winter. Regardless, it is apparent that scientism has failed to deliver on its grand promises, at least in this current pandemic. The new age Gnosticism inherent in the alternative medicine industry is blind to the reality that human suffering comes from The Fall, the answers to which can be found only in the Cross. Disease will not be eliminated by science or by a healthy lifestyle. It will only end in that place where all tears are wiped away.
There are messages for us in the midst of this pandemic, in the message of Our Lady of Fatima. Blessed Francisco and Jacinta, please pray for us, and help us discern.