Category Archives: Health

Swine Flu May Be Human Error; WHO Investigates Claim

May 13 (Bloomberg) — The World Health Organization is investigating a claim by an Australian researcher that the swine flu virus circling the globe may have been created as a result of human error.

Adrian Gibbs, 75, who collaborated on research that led to the development of Roche Holding AG’s Tamiflu drug, said in an interview that he intends to publish a report suggesting the new strain may have accidentally evolved in eggs scientists use to grow viruses and drugmakers use to make vaccines. Gibbs said he came to his conclusion as part of an effort to trace the virus’s origins by analyzing its genetic blueprint.

“One of the simplest explanations is that it’s a laboratory escape,” Gibbs said in an interview with Bloomberg Television today. “But there are lots of others.”

The World Health Organization received the study last weekend and is reviewing it, Keiji Fukuda, the agency’s assistant director-general of health security and environment, said in an interview May 11. Gibbs, who has studied germ evolution for four decades, is one of the first scientists to analyze the genetic makeup of the virus that was identified three weeks ago in Mexico and threatens to touch off the first flu pandemic since 1968.

A virus that resulted from lab experimentation or vaccine production may indicate a greater need for security, Fukuda said. By pinpointing the source of the virus, scientists also may better understand the microbe’s potential for spreading and causing illness, Gibbs said.

Possible Mistake

“The sooner we get to grips with where it’s come from, the safer things might become,” Gibbs said by phone from Canberra yesterday. “It could be a mistake” that occurred at a vaccine production facility or the virus could have jumped from a pig to another mammal or a bird before reaching humans, he said.

Gibbs and two colleagues analyzed the publicly available sequences of hundreds of amino acids coded by each of the flu virus’s eight genes. He said he aims to submit his three-page paper today for publication in a medical journal.

“You really want a very sober assessment” of the science behind the claim, Fukuda said May 11 at the WHO’s Geneva headquarters.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has received the report and has decided there is no evidence to support Gibbs’s conclusion, said Nancy Cox, director of the agency’s influenza division. She said since researchers don’t have samples of swine flu viruses from South America and Africa, where the new strain may have evolved, those regions can’t be ruled out as natural sources for the new flu.

No Evidence

“We are interested in the origins of this new influenza virus,” Cox said. “But contrary to what the author has found, when we do the comparisons that are most relevant, there is no evidence that this virus was derived by passage in eggs.”

The WHO’s collaborative influenza research centers, which includes the CDC, and sites in Memphis, Melbourne, London and Tokyo, were asked by the international health agency to review the study over the weekend, Fukuda said. The request was extended to scientists at the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, the World Organization for Animal Health in Paris, as well as the WHO’s influenza network, he said.

“My guess is that the picture should be a lot clearer over the next few days,” Fukuda said. “We have asked a lot of people to look at this.”

Virus Expert

Gibbs wrote or co-authored more than 250 scientific publications on viruses during his 39-year career at the Australian National University in Canberra, according to biographical information on the university’s Web site.

Swine flu has infected 5,251 people in 30 countries so far, killing 61, according to WHO data. Scientists are trying to determine whether the virus will mutate and become more deadly if it spreads to the Southern Hemisphere and back. Flu pandemics occur when a strain of the disease to which few people have immunity evolves and spreads.

Gibbs said his analysis supports research by scientists including Richard Webby, a virologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, who found the new strain is the product of two distinct lineages of influenza that have circulated among swine in North America and Europe for more than a decade.

In addition, Gibbs said his research found the rate of genetic mutation in the new virus was about three times faster than that of the most closely related viruses found in pigs, suggesting it evolved outside of swine.

Gene Evolution

“Whatever speeded up the evolution of these genes happened at least seven or eight years ago, so one wonders, why hasn’t it been found?” Gibbs said today.

Some scientists have speculated that the 1977 Russian flu, the most recent global outbreak, began when a virus escaped from a laboratory.

Identifying the source of new flu viruses is difficult without finding the exact strain in an animal or bird “reservoir,” said Jennifer McKimm-Breschkin, a virologist at the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organization in Melbourne.

“If you can’t find an exact match, the best you can do is compare sequences,” she said. “Similarities may give an indication of a possible source, but this remains theoretical.”

The World Organization for Animal Health, which represents chief veterinary officers from 174 countries, received the Gibbs paper and is working with the WHO on an assessment, said Maria Zampaglione, a spokeswoman.

Genetic Patterns

The WHO wants to know whether any evidence that the virus may have been developed in a laboratory can be corroborated and whether there are other explanations for its particular genetic patterns, according to Fukuda.

“These things have to be dealt with straight on,” he said. “If someone makes a hypothesis, then you test it and you let scientific process take its course.”

Gibbs said he has no evidence that the swine-derived virus was a deliberate, man-made product.

“I don’t think it could be a malignant thing,” he said. “It’s much more likely that some random thing has put these two viruses together.”

Gibbs, who spent most of his academic career studying plant viruses, said his major contribution to the study of influenza occurred in 1975, while collaborating with scientists Graeme Laver and Robert Webster in research that led to the development of the anti-flu medicines Tamiflu and Relenza, made by GlaxoSmithKline Plc.

Bird Poo

“We were out on one of the Barrier Reef islands, off Australia, catching birds for the flu in them, and I happened to be the guy who caught the best,” Gibbs said. The bird he got “yielded the poo from which was isolated the influenza isolate strain from which all the work on Tamiflu and Relenza started.”

Gibbs, who says he studies the evolution of flu viruses as a “retirement hobby,” expects his research to be challenged by other scientists.

“This is how science progresses,” he said. “Somebody comes up with a wild idea, and then they all pounce on it and kick you to death, and then you start off on another silly idea.”

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601130&sid=aShZig0Cig4g

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In Some States, a Push to Ban Mandate on Insurance

ST. PAUL — In more than a dozen statehouses across the country, a small but growing group of lawmakers is pressing for state constitutional amendments that would outlaw a crucial element of the health care plans under discussion in Washington: the requirement that everyone buy insurance or pay a penalty.

“All I’m trying to do is protect the individual’s right to make health care decisions,” said State Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota. “I just don’t want the government getting between my decisions with my doctors.”

“All I’m trying to do is protect the individual’s right to make health care decisions,” said State Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota. “I just don’t want the government getting between my decisions with my doctors.”

Approval of the measures, the lawmakers suggest, would set off a legal battle over the rights of states versus the reach of federal power — an issue that is, for some, central to the current health care debate but also one that has tentacles stretching into a broad range of other matters, including education and drug policy.

Opponents of the measures and some constitutional scholars say the proposals are mostly symbolic, intended to send a message of political protest, and have little chance of succeeding in court over the long run. But they acknowledge the measures could create legal collisions that would be both costly and cause delays to health care changes, and could be a rallying point for opponents in the increasingly tense debate.

“This does head us for a legal showdown,” said Christie Herrera, an official at the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group in Washington that advocates limited government and free markets, and which on Sept. 16 offered guidance to lawmakers in more than a dozen states during a conference call on the state amendments.

So far, the notion has been presented in at least 10 states (though it has already been rejected or left behind in committees in some of them), and lawmakers in four other states have said they will soon offer similar measures in what has grown into a coordinated effort at resistance. (Arizona, which has placed the amendment on its ballot in 2010, seems the furthest along)

Here in Minnesota, like in many of the other states, the move to amend the State Constitution is being driven by a handful of Republican lawmakers.

“All I’m trying to do is protect the individual’s right to make health care decisions,” said State Representative Tom Emmer, a Republican. “I just don’t want the government getting between my decisions with my doctors.”

The first efforts actually predate the Obama administration and the current federal health care debate. Proposed constitutional amendments began cropping up after 2006, when Massachusetts passed a sweeping state law meant to create nearly universal health coverage for residents. Elsewhere, some leaders — opposed to the possibility of insurance mandates, government-run systems or rules barring people from paying for their health care procedures — began suggesting constitutional amendments to block such measures from their own states.

In Arizona, with help from Dr. Eric Novack — an orthopedic surgeon who says his intent was not “some grand secessionist plot” but merely a health care overhaul with protections for individuals’ rights — an amendment first went before voters in 2008. The idea lost, but by fewer than 9,000 votes among more than two million cast. This year, Arizona’s Legislature, dominated by Republicans in both chambers, voted to send the question back to the ballot in 2010.

Few in the public seemed focused on health care a year ago, those involved in Arizona’s ballot question said, but the recent debate over a federal overhaul has changed all that, and proponents of the amendment believe that will improve its chances both in Arizona and in other states, where similar efforts have taken root.

The federal proposals, though, have also changed the potential fallout if such amendments were to pass.

Clint Bolick, litigation director at the Goldwater Institute, a conservative research group based in Arizona that favors free enterprise, and who has helped lead Arizona’s efforts, said he believed the inevitable “legal clash” — if the federal government adopts a health care law and if states change their constitutions — was winnable for the states.

Although the Constitution’s supremacy clause ordinarily allows federal law to, in essence, trump a state law that conflicts with it, Mr. Bolick said that was not always the case, depending on “the strength of the state interest.” Mr. Bolick said he viewed two recentSupreme Court cases, related to an education question in Arizona and a utility district in Texas as indications that the current court might be open to such a state claim.

But several other legal experts said they saw little room for such a challenge. “States can no more nullify a federal law like this than they could nullify the civil rights laws by adopting constitutional amendments,” said Timothy Stoltzfus Jost, a health law expert at Washington & Lee University School of Law.

Mark A. Hall, a law professor at Wake Forest who has studied the constitutionality of mandates that people buy health insurance, said, “There is no way this challenge will succeed in court,” adding that the state measures seemed more “sort of an act of defiance, a form of civil disobedience if you will.”

Even Randy E. Barnett, a Georgetown Law professor who has written about what he views as legitimate constitutional questions about health insurance mandates, seemed doubtful.

“While using federal power to force individuals to buy private insurance raises serious constitutional questions, I just don’t see what these state resolutions add to the constitutional objections to this expansion of federal power,” Professor Barnett said.

In Minnesota, even before the prospect of a court clash, Mr. Emmer appears to have an uphill battle ahead. Before voters can consider amending the state’s constitution, Mr. Emmer needs approval from the Legislature, which is dominated by Democrats. He has offered the Health Care Freedom Act in years past, but it has never made its way to a vote, and Margaret Anderson Kelliher, the Democratic speaker of the House who is also among the wide field of candidates for governor, said last week that she doubted it stood much of a chance this time either.

“Most legislators are interested in improving the health of Minnesotans, and how to do more health care reform,” Ms. Kelliher said. “No one thinks the answer is a states’ right movement.”

Still, Mr. Emmer, who is a candidate for governor, says he is hopeful. He emphasizes that such an amendment — regardless of court battles over a federal plan — would certainly spare Minnesotans from the potential downsides of some future state health care plan.

And this whole amendment notion, he said, would not prevent anyone from taking part in a federal health program; it would merely block people from being forced to do so.

Of legal experts who discount the states’ chances of trumping a federal plan, Mr. Emmer seemed unconvinced.

“They’re essentially saying that state constitutions are meaningless, and I disagree,” he said. “And tell me where in the U.S. Constitution it says the federal government has the right to provide health care? This is the essence of the debate.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/29/us/29states.html?_r=2&8au&emc=au

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Woman gives birth to 19.2lbs. super baby

An Indonesian woman has given birth to an 8.7 kilogram (19.2 pound) baby boy – the heaviest newborn ever recorded in the country.

The baby, who is still unnamed and is 62 centimetres long, was born by caesarean section Monday (local time) at a public hospital in North Sumatra province, a gynaecologist who took part in the operation said on Wednesday.

“This heavy baby made the surgery really tough, especially the process of taking him out of his mum’s womb,” Binsar Sitanggang said.

“His legs were so big.”

The boy is in a healthy condition despite having to initially be given oxygen to overcome breathing problems, the gynaecologist said.

“He’s got strong appetite, every minute, it’s almost non-stop feeding,” he said.

“This baby boy is extraordinary, the way he’s crying is not like a usual baby. It’s really loud.”

The boy’s massive size was likely the result of his mother, Ani, 41, having diabetes, Mr Sitanggang said.

She had to be rushed to hospital due to complications with the pregnancy, which had reached nine months.

The baby, her fourth, was the only child not delivered by a traditional midwife.

Indonesia’s previous heaviest baby, weighing in at 6.9 kilos, was born in 2007 on the outskirts of the capital Jakarta, according to the Indonesian Museum of Records website.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/09/23/2694755.htm

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Planning the H1N1 Flu Pandemic: Body Bags, Mass Graves, Quarantine Orders

An atmosphere of insecurity and fear is being created simultaneously in several countries in a global public health initiative under the auspices of the WHO.

We are summarising selected reports on body bags, mass graves and quarantine orders. Swine flu is acknowledged to be milder than seasonal influenza. So what is the purpose of these initiatives?

There is a consistent pattern. These reports raise serious questions as to the public health objectives of our governments, not to mention the WHO. The entire construct is politically motivated and corrupt . It serves the financial interests of the pharmaceutical industry. It justifies the militarization of public health and violates fundamental civil liberties.

CANADA
VIDEO: Preparing for the H1N1 Pandemic: Body Bag for Canada’s First Nations

“It is unfortunate that this has been linked exclusively with H1N1,” he said. “Health Canada apologizes. We all regret the alarm caused by the stocking of this particular item.”

Health Canada regularly re-stocks body bags every three or four months, he said. But especially in the case of Wasagamatch First Nation, which received roughly 30 of the bags, the number of bags delivered “was excessive.”

“In this case, we overestimated,” he said. “Our apology is to all First Nations.” (see H1N1 Swine Flu: Health Canada apologizes, says body bags were ‘routine restocking’, Globe and Mail September 18, 2009)

Source CBC

THE UNITED KINGDOM

Mass Graves. Increased Mortuary Capacity

Àccording to an Official Home Office Report, see below. (See Michel Chossudovsky, Fear, Intimidation & Media Disinformation: U.K Government is Planning Mass Graves in Case of H1N1 Swine Flu Pandemic, Global Research, August 2009)

The mass graves, according to the report, “are being planned to deal with the rising death toll from swine flu if the pandemic escalates”:

“The grim revelation will see the mass burial sites dug in advance to cope with any potential crisis.

The Government is planning to create a series of communal graves to cope with the second outbreak expected in the autumn and through the winter.

A Home Office document published earlier this year sets out plans for how local councils should deal with a high death toll – estimates of the number of deaths range from 55,000 to as high as 750,000 from the H1N1 killer virus – including setting up temporary mortuaries.

So far, 44 people in England have been confirmed as dying after contracting swine flu and another five have died in Scotland. The document says that while most cemeteries have sufficient burial capacity for a number of years, this could be put to the test at the peak of a pandemic. (Daily Express, August 19, 2009)

Concepts:

increasing mortuary capacity,

chilled storage area,

body hoists, deposit/exit the deceased, etc (see above)

UNITED STATES
US Homeland Security. Quarantine Orders

The following Report was released at the very outset of the crisis in Mexico by CBS News regarding the implementation of nationwide quarantines.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has sent a memo to some health care providers noting procedures to be followed if theswine flu outbreak eventually makes quarantines necessary.

DHS Assistant Secretary Bridger McGaw circulated the swine flu memo, which was obtained by CBSNews.com, on Monday night. It says: “The Department of Justice has established legal federal authorities pertaining to the implementation of a quarantine and enforcement. Under approval from HHS, the Surgeon General has the authority to issue quarantines.”

McGaw appears to have been referring to the section of federal law that allows the Surgeon General to detain and quarantine Americans “reasonably believed to be infected” with a communicable disease. A Centers for Disease Control official said on Tuesdaythat swine flu deaths in the U.S. are likely.

Federal quarantine authority is limited to diseases listed in presidential executive orders; President Bush added “novel” forms of influenza with the potential to create pandemics in Executive Order 13375. Anyone violating a quarantine order can be punished by a$250,000 fine and a one-year prison term.

A Homeland Security spokesman on Tuesday did not have an immediate response to followup questions about the memo, which said “DHS is consulting closely with the CDC to determine appropriate public health measures.”

The memo from McGaw, who is DHS’ acting assistant secretary for the private sector, also said: “U.S. Customs and Coast Guard Officers assist in the enforcement of quarantine orders. Other DOJ law enforcement agencies including the U.S. Marshals, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives may also enforce quarantines. Military personnel are not authorized to engage in enforcement.” (See Department of Homeland Security Guidelines For Possible Swine Flu Quarantines, CBS, April 28, 2009)

IOWA

The FACILITY QUARANTINE ORDER document posted on the website of the CDC, a federal government agency, envisages quite explicitly “forced confinement” in the case of the H1N1 swine flu:

“The Department has determined that it is necessary to quarantine your movement to a specific facility to prevent further spread of this disease. The Department has determined that quarantine in your home and other less restrictive alternatives are not acceptable because [insert the reason home quarantine is not acceptable, the person violated a previously issued home quarantine order, the person does not have an appropriate home setting conducive to home quarantine, etc.] The Department is therefore ordering you to comply with the following provisions during the entire period of quarantine:

1. Terms of confinement. You are ordered to remain at the quarantine facility, _____________________ [insert name and address of facility], from ___________ to ____________ [insert dates of quarantine].

….

4. Legal authority. This order is issued pursuant to the legal authority contained at Iowa Code chapters 135, 139A and 641 Iowa Administrative Code chapter 1, a copy of which is labeled Attachment B and is attached to this order for your review. The Department shall comply with the principles for quarantine contained in subrule 1.9(3) of this attachment when issuing and implementing this order.

5. Ensuring compliance. In order to ensure that you strictly comply with this Quarantine Order the Department or persons authorized by the Department may regularly inspect the quarantine facility.

6. Violations of order. If you fail to comply with this Quarantine Order you may be ordered to be quarantined in a more restrictive facility. In addition, failure to comply with this order is a simple misdemeanor for which you may be arrested, fined, and imprisoned.” Michel Chossudovsky, H1N1 Swine Flu Pandemic: Iowa Contemplates “Forced Confinement” in a “Quarantine Facility”, Global Research, August 2009)

This is an official document of the Iowa State government, which has also been endorsed by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC). If it were a preliminary or internal draft, it would not have been published by the CDC. The question is whether similar quarantine procedures are being replicated in other states across America.

MASSACHUSETTS

“A new law just passed in Massachusetts imposes fines of up to $1000 per day and up to a 30 day jail sentence for not obeying authorities during a public health emergency. So if you are instructed to take the swine flu vaccine in Massachusetts and you refuse, you could be facing fines that will bankrupt you and a prison sentence on top of that.” (See VIDEO; Compulsory Vaccination in America?)

The legislation for forced vaccination in Massachusetts  (Mass. Senate Bill)

http://www.mass.gov/legis/bills/senate/186/st02pdf/st02028.pdf

or

http://www.scribd.com/doc/17532372/Massachusetts-S18-Swine-Flu-Home-Entry

The announcement of the Mass Public Health Council

http://www.scribd.com/doc/18523710/MA-Public-Health-Council-Swine-Flu-Emergency-Dec

VIDEO featuring Bob Dwyer, discusses the legislation approved by the Mass. Senate

THE MILITARIZATION OF PUBLIC HEALTH

According to CNN, the Pentagon is “to establish regional teams of military personnel to assist civilian authorities in the event of a significant outbreak of the H1N1 virus this fall, according to Defense Department officials.”

“The proposal is awaiting final approval from Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

The officials would not be identified because the proposal from U.S. Northern Command’s Gen. Victor Renuart has not been approved by the secretary.

The plan calls for military task forces to work in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. There is no final decision on how the military effort would be manned, but one source said it would likely include personnel from all branches of the military.

It has yet to be determined how many troops would be needed and whether they would come from the active duty or the National Guard and Reserve forces.

Civilian authorities would lead any relief efforts in the event of a major outbreak, the official said. The military, as they would for a natural disaster or other significant emergency situation, could provide support and fulfill any tasks that civilian authorities could not, such as air transport or testing of large numbers of viral samples from infected patients.

As a first step, Gates is being asked to sign a so-called “execution order” that would authorize the military to begin to conduct the detailed planning to execute the proposed plan.

Orders to deploy actual forces would be reviewed later, depending on how much of a health threat the flu poses this fall, the officials said.” (CNN, Military planning for possible H1N1 outbreak, July 2009, emphasis added)

The implications are far-reaching. The decision points towards the militarization of civilian institutions, including law enforcement and public health. (See Michel Chossudovsky, H1N1 Pandemic: Pentagon Planning Deployment of Troops in Support of Nationwide Vaccination, Global Research, July 31, 2009)

Military and Civilian Planning; International Swine Flu Conference in Washington

There is evidence of international coordination, The military and Intelligence agencies are involed in planning  (click the program below to enlarge)

Excerpts from the Program, click to enlarge:

Topics include (quoted in the program)

Mass Fatality Management Planning

When 50% or more of employees are out sick or taking care
of their sick ones

When H1N1 fl u pandemic unfold in two or three successive
waves in a calendar year

Disruptions to public, private and critical infrastructure undermining
your essentials functions

Direct fatality management tactical operations

Activate fatality management operations

Conduct morgue operations

Manage ante-mortem data

Conduct final disposition

Continuity of Operations (COOP) and Continuity
of Government Planning

Public’s distress of exposure and safety

Breakdown of public services, utilities

Medical supplies shortage

Effectively undertake mass vaccinations

Enforce quarantines

Protect public works first responders from falling ill or being hurt in civil disturbances

For detailed review of the H1N1 Flu Pandemic, see GlobalResearch.ca – Centre for Research on Globalization  h1N1 Flu Pandemic News Dossier (60 plus articles and reports)

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=15307

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Ranking the U.S. Health-Care System

It is curious that the United States ranked below Europe in the World Health Organization’s 2000 World Health Report, which rated 191 countries’ medical systems. In his documentary Sicko, socialist Michael Moore makes hay out of the fact that the United States placed 37th, behind even Morocco, Cyprus, and Costa Rica. This ranking is used to “prove” that state-controlled health care is superior to the “free market.”

This ranking is curious because the actual life expectancy of the average American differs very little from that of the average European. At birth, average life expectancy in the European Union is 78.7. For the average American it is 78. And this doesn’t adjust for factors that can affect the averages which are unrelated to health care, such as lifestyle choices, accident rates, crime rates, and immigration. Health isn’t entirely about longevity but it certainly is a major component.

What is not mentioned by Moore, or others citing the WHO report, are the measures being used to rate the various countries and who is doing the measuring. There are many ways to nudge ratings in one direction or another that are not directly related to the actual item being measured.

For instance, one might produce a study on transportation. The purpose of transportation is to get people from where they are to where they wish to be. You might rate how quickly people can move, how cheaply they can move relative to their income, how conveniently they can move, and how free they are to move.

You would think the United States would rate high in such a study. Americans tend to be wealthier than the rest of the world. There is widespread ownership of cars. Gasoline prices are lower than in most other countries. On average, the typical American can travel quicker, cheaper, and more conveniently than people in most parts of the world. But what if this index included other factors as well? For instance, if a major component was the percentage of commuters who use public transportation, that would push the United States far down in the ranking. A larger percentage of the people in other countries have no other option but public transportation.

In 2000, when the report was issued, WHO was run by Gro Harlem Brundtland, a former prime minister of Norway and a socialist. She doesn’t think the results of a health system alone are important. Rather, she wants to know if the system is “fair.” In introducing the WHO report she wrote that while the goal of a health system “is to improve and protect health,” it also has “other intrinsic goals [that] are concerned with fairness in the way people pay for health care.” She is clear about the ideological factors she thinks are important: “Where health and responsiveness are concerned, achieving a high average level is not good enough: the goals of a health system must also include reducing inequalities, in ways that improve the situation of the worst-off. In this report attainment in relation to these goals provides the basis for measuring the performance of health systems.”

True to her ideological roots, Brundtland prefers socialized medicine over private care. Drawing her first conclusion about what makes a good medical system, she declares: “Ultimate responsibility for the performance of a country’s health system lies with government. The careful and responsible management of the well-being of the population—stewardship—is the very essence of good government. The health of people is always a national priority: government responsibility for it is continuous and permanent.”

One WHO discussion paper states, regarding “fairness” in financing, “we consider only the distribution, not the level, as there is no consensus on what the level of health spending should be.” Equal results, not necessarily good results, are the focus.

When Moore or others refer to the WHO index as proof that private health care doesn’t work, they aren’t being totally honest because they fail to disclose that the index lowers the scores of systems that don’t satisfy socialist presumptions.

A Second Rigged Study

The New York Times in August editorialized that American health care “lags well behind other advanced nations.” The newspaper relied in part on the WHO rankings as proof. For the rest, it relied on a more recent study by the Commonwealth Fund. But that study, which compared the United States to five other wealthy countries, has weaknesses similar to the WHO study.

The Commonwealth Fund marked down the United States partly because “All other major industrialized nations provide universal health coverage, and most of them have comprehensive benefits packages with no cost-sharing by the patients.” Again the American system loses points because it doesn’t provide socialized medicine. And the Times neglected to note that “no cost-sharing” means the people have paid through taxes whether they receive the care or not.

Non-Emergency Visits

The United States also was penalized because seeing a physician for non-emergency reasons is harder to do on nights and weekends than in the other five nations. The Fund said “many report having to wait six days or more for an appointment with their own doctors.”

The survey didn’t look at the treatment of serious conditions. Waiting weeks or months for chemotherapy is not held against a health-care system, but waiting a few days to have a check up is. Waiting time for “elective” surgery is counted (the United States was a close second to Germany), but waiting time for non-elective, serious surgery did not count, though that is precisely where socialist systems do the worst.

This issue is not unknown to the Commonwealth Fund. In 1999 it published The Elderly’s Experiences with Health Care in Five Nations, which found significant delays for “serious surgery.” Only 4 percent of the American seniors reported long waits for serious surgery. The rate was 11 percent in Canada and 13 percent in Britain. For non-serious surgery the differences were more obvious: 7 percent in the United States, 40 percent in Canada, and 51 percent in Britain.

In the latest survey, the United States came in dead last for health “safety,” but many of the scores were only a few points apart. For instance, 15 percent of American patients said they “believed a medical mistake” had been made in their treatment within the last two years. Notice this is merely patient perception and nothing objective. But the best score was in Britain, where 12 percent said this.

The United States is also marked down because 23 percent of patients report delayed or incorrect results on medical tests they took. That is far worse than the best country, Germany, at 9 percent. But what constitutes a delay? If a result is expected in a week but takes two, that is a delay. But if it is expected in three weeks and arrives then, that isn’t a delay. Thus what constitutes a delay depends on expectations, leading to counter-intuitive results.

The United States also lost credit because fewer Americans report having a regular doctor for five years or more. But Americans are more mobile than many other people. CNN reports that Americans move every five years on average. In comparison, Britain has a moving rate of 10 percent a year, or an average of once a decade. And 60 percent of those move about three miles.

Freer to Change Doctors

Americans are also freer to change doctors if they wish. Britain requires patients to sign up with physicians, and once they do so, they are pretty much stuck unless they want to end up on the waiting list of another physician. Patients often have to wait to get on the books of a physician and only then can they be treated; that is, they wait to get on a wait list. This is true even for heart transplants. The inevitable waiting is a disincentive to change doctors.

Another measure used by the Commonwealth Fund is centralization of medical records. If a country has a system that allows doctors anywhere to tap into the patients’ records, it is rated higher. The United States has no centralized database and so is rated lower. Many Americans may prefer to have their records private and dispersed. When the Clinton plan was proposed in 1993, one of the rallying points that helped defeat it was the centralization of health records.

Out-of-pocket expenses were counted against a system as well. In socialized health care these expenses are zero or very low but are replaced with taxes. Taxes, however, don’t lower a country’s score because the care “is free.”

Countries were also judged on the number of patient complaints. But different cultures have different attitudes toward complaining. Jeremy Laurance wrote in the Belfast Telegraph recently that the National Health Service needs “a healthy dose of American belligerence.”

Finally, the United States is ranked last among the six nations surveyed  in infant mortality. What is not discussed is that nations define infant mortality differently. Any infant, regardless of size or weight or premature status, who shows sign of life is counted as a live birth in the United States. Germany, which ranks number one in the Commonwealth Fund survey, doesn’t count as a live birth any infant with a birth weight under 500 grams (one pound). How valuable is a comparison under those circumstances?

One could easily design a survey that would rank American health care high and other nations low. But this does not mean the American system is what it should be. Its successes and innovation can be attributed to the vestiges of freedom, but government has saddled the system with so much intervention that it is far from market oriented. Instead of worrying about irrelevant international rankings, we should be working toward freeing the medical market.

http://www.thefreemanonline.org/featured/ranking-the-us-health-care-system/

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CDC States H1N1 Vaccine May Maim and Kill 30,000 Americans, FDA Requires Minimal Efficacy

CDC says to assume 1 in every 100,000 vaccine recipients will suffer serious side effects, FDA only requires vaccine be effective.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has officially stated that there will be as many as 30,000 serious, potentially lethal adverse reactions to the novel H1N1 vaccine, while the FDA guidelines for the novel H1N1 vaccine only require that it work in 3 out of every 10 recipients.

Last Saturday, I attended one of 10 “public engagement” meetings the CDC is holding across the country, utilizing a new model of public engagement designed to provide a public viewpoint or societal perspective on the topic at hand (mass vaccination) to the sponsor (in this case, the CDC).

Part of the process entails the sponsor (CDC) providing the following: “Information on the many sides of an issue is provided to the participants in a fair and balanced manner so that all participants become well-informed, and the overall group process is convened and managed in a neutral, respectful fashion.”

This requirement is met by providing an oral presentation in easy to understand language, a booklet summarizing the key facts needed and a discussion guide summarizing the choices faced.

The assembled group of 80 participants was shown a video, given a brief oral presentation and a printed discussion guide. We were asked to accept several assumptions in considering the topic. We were asked to assume that the severity would be similar to what had already been observed in the spring of 2009; we were told to assume that the vaccination program would be voluntary, not mandatory; we were told to assume that initial vaccine supplies will be available in October but supply would be limited through February 2010.

The most disturbing assumption we were asked to accept dealt with the safety of the novel H1N1 vaccine. In the video, the CDC spokesperson explained that during the 1976 mass vaccination campaign, 1 in every 100,000 recipients of the vaccine developed Guillain Barré syndrome (GBS), a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the peripheral nervous system often leading to paralysis and death. There is no known cure for GBS.

In 1976 roughly 40 million Americans received the vaccine and some 4,000 developed GBS.

The printed material that was distributed reiterated these horrific statistics and we were asked to accept the assumption that, “the estimated risk for more serious reactions (e.g. Guillain Barré syndrome) is between 1-10 per million persons vaccinated”.

This is a less direct way of stating that the risk is about the same as existed during the 1976 mass vaccination attempt and that as many as 1 in every 100,000 recipients will develop GBS or some other serious adverse reaction. The CDC is setting up a new intensive surveillance system with which to monitor and track GBS cases that result from the novel H1N1 vaccine.

Merriam-Webster defines assumption as a fact or statement taken for granted and assumed to be true. If we accept the documented assumption presented by the CDC, we are to consider it a fact that 1 in every 100,000 vaccine recipients will suffer a serious adverse effect such as GBS.

This means that if the entire U.S. population is vaccinated (a stated goal of the CDC), we are to assume as a fact that 30,000 Americans will suffer debilitating or lethal side effects. Apparently the CDC considers this an acceptable level of collateral damage.

As unthinkable as this is (destroying or ending the lives of as many as 30,000 Americans), that is only part of the story.

The novel H1N1 vaccine being developed must adhere to guidelines set forth by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA has announced that a vaccine will be accepted if it creates antibodies in 4 out of 10 recipients (40%), with at least 70 percent of those 4 achieving an antibody level believed to provide benefit. This means that an acceptable vaccine candidate would provide “protection” for 28% of vaccine recipients (70% of the 40%), or less than 3 in 10 recipients. The requirement drops to 18% efficacy for those over 65 years of age (60% of 30%).

So here are the facts, as documented by the CDC and the FDA:

As many as 30,000 Americans will be harmed by the novel H1N1 vaccine.

The vaccine may be ineffective in more than 7 out of 10 recipients.

And in case you think I am alone in my concerns, here is what several vaccine experts associated with the CDC and the U.S. government say on the subject.

“I am very skeptical of finishing vaccine before we know the appropriate dose to be included in each inoculation, before immunogenicity studies are complete, or before safety assessments have been finished,” William Schaffner, MD, Chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University and a member of the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), wrote in an recent e-mail.

“We have assured both the profession and the public that the H1N1 vaccine will be evaluated with the same rigor that is applied to seasonal vaccine. We should NOT make vaccine available before the trials are complete and the results carefully assessed.”

Others are worried about a repeat of the last swine flu “pandemic,” now regarded as a public health and public relations debacle.

“I fear that a rush towards vaccinating the population without completing trials risks leading to the harmful outcome that we witnessed during the 1976 swine flu scare, where the government advocated rapid production and vaccination of the population without adequate safeguards, which led to an unexplained increase in cases of Guillain Barré syndrome (GBS), amongst other complications, and massive liability for the government,” wrote Amir Afkhami, MD, PhD, of George Washington University, an international expert on the 1918 Influenza pandemic and an advisor to the U.S. State Department, the U.S. military, and the World Bank on issues pertaining to infectious diseases, public health and, mental health.

“I think in this regard, we must learn from lessons of the past and be mindful of not jumping from the proverbial frying pan into the fire by putting people’s health at risk without adequate production and safety monitoring of the vaccines.”

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=14950

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VA won’t pay benefits to Marine whose injuries came from vaccine

WASHINGTON — It wasn’t a bullet or roadside bomb that felled Lance Cpl. Josef Lopez three years ago after nine days in Iraq.

It was an injection into his arm before his unit left the states.

The then 20-year-old Marine from Springfield, Mo., suffered a rare adverse reaction to the smallpox vaccine. While the vaccine isn’t mandatory, the military strongly encourages troops to take it.

However, it left Lopez in a coma, unable for a time to breathe on his own and paralyzed for weeks. Now he can walk, but with a limp. He has to wear a urine bag constantly, has short-term memory loss and must swallow 15 pills daily to control leg spasms and other ailments.

And even though his medical problems wouldn’t have occurred if he hadn’t been deployed, Lopez doesn’t qualify for a special government benefit of as much as $100,000 for troops who suffer traumatic injuries.

The hangup? His injuries were caused by the vaccine.

“I could have easily died, or not been able to walk because of that,” Lopez said. “It destroyed my world. It was pretty traumatic to me.”

Officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which oversees the benefit program, said they’re following what the agency has determined to be Congress’ intent.

“It’s for traumatic injury, not disease; not illness; not preventive medicine,” said Stephen Wurtz, deputy assistant director for insurance at the VA. “It has nothing to do with not believing these people deserve some compensation for their losses.”

The VA was unable to say how many claims have been rejected because of vaccine-related injuries. Wurtz and others familiar with the program said it probably wasn’t a large amount.

As of July 1, the traumatic injury program has granted nearly 6,700 claims, a 63 percent approval rate, and paid $394 million in compensation, Wurtz said.

A representative for the Military Vaccine Agency, which oversees the vaccination of troops for smallpox, anthrax and other diseases, couldn’t be reached for comment, despite repeated attempts.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat and a member of the Armed Services Committee, drafted a bill named after Lopez to widen the program to include vaccine-related injuries.

She became aware of his plight when he and his mother stopped in her Senate office last year looking for help. Lopez had come to Washington to compete in the wheelchair portion of the Marine Corps Marathon.

“The program was created with a broad mandate to provide financial assistance to folks with serious injuries and given to VA to determine the outlines,” said Stephen Hedger, McCaskill’s legislative director and an Army veteran of Iraq. The VA “took a narrower approach and defined in greater detail what injuries and illnesses qualified for payment. Our view is it was way too narrow.”

Lopez’s health insurance through the military has covered all his medical expenses. The VA has paid for his medical costs since he was discharged in June.

What he didn’t get were benefits from a program called TSGLI, or Traumatic Servicemember Group Life Insurance. Congress created it in 2005 to provide short-term financial help to severely injured service members until their disability benefits could kick in. The compensation is retroactive to injuries suffered since Oct. 1, 2001.

It’s intended to cover expenses such as the costs of having a family member temporarily relocate while an injured service member receives treatment at a military hospital. Another might be the costs of retrofitting a service member’s home to accommodate a wheelchair or other medical equipment.

The injuries don’t have be the result of combat, however. Service members could be eligible because of a car accident on the way to the grocery store. The fee is an additional $1 each month on top of their regular military life insurance premium.

Lopez seemed to fit the profile. His injuries affected his normal daily activities, one of the criteria to obtain coverage. His family also met another: financial hardship.

His mother, Barbara Lopez, took a leave from her job as a high school secretary to move to Maryland to be with him while he spent six weeks at the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda. She also had to give up her second job, a part-time position as a cashier.

They’d to build a ramp and widen a door to accommodate his wheelchair at her home in Springfield, where he spent his recovery.

Barbara Lopez said she heard about TSGLI from families of other injured troops at Bethesda. Yet unlike many of them, whose wounds were obvious, her son’s application was turned down. She still can’t fathom it.

“In his spinal column, he has quite a bit of permanent scarring,” Barbara Lopez said. “He takes medication to help his legs. He can walk unassisted, but never far, and he can’t stand for very long. I kind of feel Joe was out there fighting the same fight they were. He should be just as eligible.”

The military began the smallpox vaccination program in 2003 because of post-9/11 fears that terrorists might attack the U.S. with germ warfare. Plans for the invasion of Iraq were also under way. The military was concerned that Saddam Hussein might use biological weapons against American troops.

Smallpox is contagious and can be fatal. It has no known cure. However, on rare occasions, as in Lopez’s case, the vaccine can be as dangerous as the disease. Side effects can range from a simple rash to swelling around the brain and heart, and even death.

Like the inoculation for anthrax, another pre-combat injection, troops are supposed to be informed of the side effects and told that taking the vaccine was optional. Many have said that it was made abundantly clear that refusing wasn’t a good idea.

“No one said ‘No,'” Lopez said. “I had no qualms. I had no reason not to.”

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/226/story/74566.html

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