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Swine flu 2 – this time it’s personal

How ill have I been this week? Very ill. Ill enough to start wondering what it’s like to be really ill. Ill enough to get bored of Diagnois Murder. Even ill enough to watch Ice Cold in Alex without fancying a beer at the end. Not too ill that I didn’t fancy Sylvia Sims though. But as I’m starting to swim up from the delirium and clogged lungs, it gives me a whole load of questions that I can’t seem to find answers to.

Like, I had this damned bug, back in July. Why have I got it again? Why are so many people getting it again? And why is it worse, second time around? We’re assured by the CDC and WHO that the H1N1 strain doing the rounds is the same unmutated spec, so why the greater severity of symptoms now? Okay, maybe the bug I had in the summer was something different, simplest explanation, even though it fit the symptoms then. But that doesn’t explain why winter flu is commonly held to be far more severe than summer flu – even when the strain is identical. And I see that medical science is a bit baffled by this too. Forget the dull and dreary theories that transmission rates are greater when we huddle next to each other in front of the fire – I prefer a theory with a little more zap – panspermia. Lying in bed with three degrees of fever it all became clear to me – I was ill because the stars in their courses had made it so, the solar wind had bought this invigorated bug to me. This was already – thanks to my new ipod – an enforced week off work with a Hawkwind soundtrack, now it had a Ray Bradbury/Richard Matheson plot too. Driven by 2009’s burst of solar activity after an unprecedented hiatus throughout 2008, swine flu was peppering the earth’s atmosphere like cosmic buckshot, and I’d stopped a couple of barrels…

Yeah well, I said was feverish. In truth, the panspermia idea is interesting, and of course analysis of meteorites for traces of bacterial life happens routinely now, but I’d drifted into Fred Hoyle territory this week mostly because I’ve been reading up on solar cycles with regard to the grand global warming scam. (If you haven’t come across the latest crumbling of the AGW myth, then get yourself along to Bishop Hill’s plain english analysis of the shameful fraud underpinning the “hockey stick” chart). There plainly is something unknown at work with regard to the seasonal variance and intensity of flu bugs, but whether it’s got ‘owt to do with waves of pink-tinged protons buffeting the Earth, who knows. I assume they’re pink. The ones at HW gigs usually were.

But what puzzles me is why more people aren’t puzzled by this. You get the chief medical office, Liam Donaldson, saying today that: “We are seeing more serious cases than before but no sign of any change in the virus. This is giving me some concern. There’s a school of thought that when a flu virus is operating in the summer it’s milder than when it’s operating in the flu season without a change in the virus. We don’t understand why,” and no one bats an eyelid. Isn’t this – or shouldn’t this – be something fundamental? If what a virus is, is what it is, and if it hasn’t changed, it yet becomes something else, isn’t that a bit of a problem for the theory? All around the world, in every climate, in both hemispheres, influenza exhibits seasonality, and nobody knows why…. I love this shit.

I’ve been accused of being anti-science – by that twat Sunny “twat” Hundal I think. I’m not anti-science at all. I’m extremely pro-science, pro-technology. I reckon I have a far greater understand of what this world owes to technology on a day-to-day basis than any green activist sitting on any rooftop in the world. What I am against is enforced consensus. Dull conservatism. The painful ideological manacles that proved rocks can’t fall from the sky because there were no rocks in the sky. So I like questions – anachronisms. Difficult topics. Kuhn would say that it’s research in just such areas that drags science forwards. Yet it seems that today, “science” is being defined – by the media and funders at least – as the science that doesn’t go into such areas. If flu is seasonal… that means something. Something that drives me crazy in medicine is the constant dismissal of, say, subjective benefit of a homeopathic remedy, as “just a placebo effect”. The placebo effect – just because you give it a name it doesn’t end the discussion! It *means* something. The placebo effect is univeral, it’s highly significant, we have *no idea* what is going on. Moreover, it is not static – drugs that were once ten and twenty times more effective than placebos – eg some SSRIs – are today less effective than placebos. What is going on?

I’m going back to bed. Symptoms this week: fever up to 39.4, agonising joints, superglue on lungs, hacking cough, insomnia, crippling headache, dull-wittedness, slowed reactions (too slow even for XBOX-based recuperation therapies), entertainingly randomised periods of constipation and (to use the tv advert terminology) urgency, and rivers of snot. Rivers, and rivers, of snot.


PS – my own theory? The virus is the same. The host is different. Flu isn’t seasonal – we are. Far more than we realise.


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2 comments to “Swine flu 2 – this time it’s personal”

  1. FF,
    You’re probably right about the seasonality of humans. As a scientist working in this area, I’d say that – on the balance of probabilities – two separate but potentially overlapping things are happening which would explain poor Liam Donaldson’s bafflement.

    1. Some small degree of viral genetic drift may have occurred in patches, ie it’s still mainly H1N1 but there could be small outbreaks of H1N1b on high ground. Not serious yet, although it could become so; especially if genetic shift occurs. This is when H1N1, which is highly infectious but not particularly virulent, coincides in some unlucky chicken with H5N1; which is still around in patches and which combines low infectivity in humans with very high virulence indeed (around 60% mortality). When two flu viral strains meet in this way, indiscriminate genetic exchange takes place and there is a distinct possibility of a new strain emerging which combines the transmission rates of Swine and the virulence of Bird flu. That, of course, would constitute a genuine singularity.

    2. As the Northern hemisphere moves from autumn to winter, hypo-vitaminosis D develops among the human herd. As this happens herd innate immunity drops, and we become more vulnerable to influenza. The H1N1 pandemic spreads wider, and the chances that it meets up with H5N1 increase.

    I haven’t met a single politician capable of thinking further ahead than his / her next career move, although I am sure that rare examples of scientifically literate politicians do exist. Generally though they are utterly dependent on their advisers, most of whom have baggage of their own. This is why we have wasted so much money on Tamiflu (a busted flush), and on vaccines which will never keep up with the genetically unstable flu viruses. And this is why other more effective, but less lucrative strategies, based on minor alterations to the food chain have not been explored.

    This latter strategy, however, is being actively explored by one government. This non-elected government has to deal with the largest population on earth, but has a very under-developed health care system and critically, has not been bought by the pharma industry. So you have the paradoxical situation where a government with no democratic mandate is taking better care of the health of its population than our nominally democratic one.

    Economic power is already shifting East, and if we encounter a re-run of the ‘Spanish’ or Russian flu it will be game over for us. The sun will most definitively rise in the East.

  2. challenge must itself be fillifaabse.The physical assumptions of the State are then consulted in all policies and jurisprudential decisions. The Council itself, if consulted directly, may say “this will happen if you do / don’t do X” or “if you want us to study Q then we need $y million”. However the Council may not itself suggest policy, let alone give orders or levy taxes.This maintains representative government; while keeping the masses from instituting something popular and stupid, like creationism. Civil servants and policy-making humbug-mongers get an outlet for their primate urge for status, but it’s channeled into a separate track than the popularity contest of politics. Stupidities beloved of the Left, like carbon credits or race quotas, are subject to challenge from elected officials; but a rule is in place to prevent bogus challenges from a non-scientific background.And MM, hope you and yours get well soon.

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