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Stopping a Flu Pandemic: Is King Xerxes Thrashing the Waves?

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King Xerxes, master and victim of Hubris

The first bridges that were constructed by the Phoenicians and the Egyptians for Xerxes were made from white flax and papyrus. The bridges were complete, but quickly enough a violent storm broke out that destroyed them. Xerxes, upon learning of the disaster, became enraged and acted to place blame upon two entities: the Hellespont itself, and the persons who constructed the bridge. He ordered the Hellespont to be lashed three-hundred times, making the lashers recite words condemning what had been done to the bridge by the Hellespont. This action, and specifically the words said to the Hellespont, were condemned as "barbarous and impious" by Herodotus. Xerxes must have looked as if making himself a God by lashing a force of nature, and to Herodotus this was impiety. (source)




You just have to read the headlines, such as this past weekend's "Global race is on to contain swine flu outbreak" or Monday, April 27th evening's "WHO raises pandemic alert to phase 4" to realize that health officials around the world are deeply concerned. Phase 4, however, is somewhat spurious to announce, because that simply means the virus can pass from human to human, but everybody already knows that anyway. What officials are loathe to do is announce that this is close to becoming a pandemic.

Authorities are telling us not to panic, but it seems like there is a little panic going on behind closed doors at the CDC, the WHO and other health bodies. The Obama Administration already declared a national health emergency this past Sunday, April 26, calling it a cautionary, preventive move, again "Don't panic", and is taking vigorous steps, or so they think and say, to limit its spread. If only the virus would morph into terrorists, we could order preemptive predator strikes on them and the problem would be solved, just as it is in Afghanistan, right?


There is definitely a lot of alarmism on the Internet already, and we are seeing some pretty startling charges surface, some of them right on our very own website. Several articles are stating that this is some kind of biowar virus strain that has been released by blunder or evil intent. What gives credence to this are statements attributed to the CDC that this new virus is composed of a combination of virus strains, at least according to an Associated Press report reprinted by the Arizona Daily Star online, to wit:


CDC officials detected a virus with a unique combination of gene segments that have not been seen in people or pigs before. The bug contains a human virus, an avian virus from North America and pig viruses from North America, Europe and Asia.


Health officials have seen mixes of bird, pig and human virus before, but never such an intercontinental combination with more than one pig virus in the mix. (source)

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I went to the CDC website to try to find further confirmation on this, but was unable to find any report on the genetic footprint of this new virus, other than to state that, yes, it is an A (H1N1) swine flu strain and that this is being investigated, so whatever was revealed to AP the other day is not being posted, at least as far as I have looked.




At the prompting of an associate, I will now undertake to steer between the ongoing media sensationalism, the charges of a biowar manufactured virus and the often Pollyanna statements of public officials that we needn't worry - they have things under control. I am going to present you with the results of a telephone interview with a medical doctor. I did not have any kind of recording equipment to tape his voice and then transcribe the results, so I will be paraphrasing much of what he said.


I was referred to one Brett Paul Nienaber, MD, a longtime family practitioner and ER doctor, who has seen his fair share of flu cases in clinics and emergency rooms over the years, and although not an epidemiologist, is pretty well-versed on the subject of viruses. He currently practices medicine in Brainerd, Minnesota and shares his professional time with Brainerd Emergency Room at St. Joseph's Medical Center as well.


Brett - I will use his first name to keep things on a personal level - had much to say about the evolving influenza crisis that is flashing across our television screens regularly now. He was already frustrated with what he considered the public posturing of politicians and health officials that they somehow have things under control. His basic response is, "The cat is out of the bag!" meaning that he believes this thing, designated right now as an A (H1N1) swine flu, is unstoppable.

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So that I could understand why he felt so, he went on to explain the entire phenomenon of what is known as an "antigenic shift" (or major mutation) wherein the virus's proteins, or antigens, undergo a major transformation. To get technical about it, "an antigenic shift occurs due to reassortment of RNA segments from two different viral strains infecting the same cell." (source)


A major mutation, he went on, normally occurs twice a century. Since the last dramatic antigenic shift was in 1918 with the Spanish Flu, which scientists now say emerged from avian populations, we are long, long overdue. The key vector forces are an animal/bird flu virus and human flu virus meshing with each other to form a new hybrid, the central medical nightmare arising from this being a brand new mutation that no one will have a built-in immunity to. That is the other overarching factor in a major mutation – there is no immunity against it. When a person is exposed to it, his or her immune system will be up against it for the first time.


Because of this lack of evolved immunity within masses of people, an antigenic shift always has the potential to go pandemic, or global. And Bret believes it will likely do so because of the instantaneous nature of world travel, communication and contact. One infected individual can go through crowds and crowds of people just in airports from one end of the planet to another in less than a day.

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I am a student of history, religion, exoteric and esoteric, the Humanities in general and a tempered advocate for the ultimate manifestation of peace, justice and the unity of humankind through self-realization and mutual respect, although I am not (more...)

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