(Continued from Part 1.)
The Viral Distribution of Influenza-Like Illnesses
This subject has received little attention in the press that I have seen. I started thinking about this in response to various comments and memes talking about the lack of influenza cases in the last year. Many noted that in most years you have 10s of millions of flu cases estimated/recorded but this past year nearly none. Many viewed this as evidence that the COVID pandemic was nonsense, and perhaps they are right. However I went in different direction in my mind that I saw no one else going. What if the yearly “flu season” was not real? Or more specifically not really flu? So I did some research.
First I asked around among friends, family and acquaintances if they had ever had the flu. Most said yes. I asked if they had ever been laboratory tested for the flu. All but one said no. Interesting.
Then I looked for data on yearly flu numbers. I looked at this page at the CDC site.
I found this information:
“CDC estimates that the burden of illness during the 2018–2019 season included an estimated 35.5 million people getting sick with influenza, 16.5 million people going to a health care provider for their illness, 490,600 hospitalizations, and 34,200 deaths from influenza (Table 1). The number of influenza-associated illnesses that occurred last season was similar to the estimated number of influenza-associated illnesses during the 2012–2013 influenza season when an estimated 34 million people had symptomatic influenza illness.”
That is a lot of illness, doctor visits, hospital visits and deaths. So how do we know if they had the flu? What is our typical testing like? I found this at the NIH web site:
“U.S. World Health Organization (WHO) collaborating laboratories and National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System laboratories, which include both clinical and public health laboratories throughout the United States, contribute to virologic surveillance for influenza. During September 30, 2018–May 18, 2019, clinical laboratories tested 1,145,555 specimens for influenza virus; among these, 177,039 (15.5%) tested positive, including 167,529 (95.0%) for influenza A and 9,510 (5.0%) for influenza B. The percentage of specimens testing positive for influenza each week ranged from 1.7% to 26.2%.”
So in the year prior to COVID 19, 490,600 people were hospitalized with “influenza” while only 177,039 tested positive in clinical laboratories for “influenza”. From my research, this was typical for all years. It would appear we do not test for influenza every time we diagnose it. Or any other disease for that matter. I found that interesting.
I then ran across another study that I found interesting but first I feel the need (as a sailor) to bore you with another sea story.
Upon entering boot camp in 1982, one of the first unpleasant things I encountered was of all things a huge dose of penicillin administered in my buttocks with a large needle. Unless you were allergic to it, you got, like it or not. The next day when everybody hopped out of their rack at “O Dark Thirty” there was a collective groan because everybody’s buttocks where they got the shot was in significant pain. The Company Commander (Navy speak for drill instructor) then giggled and immediately starting “mashing” (Navy speak for exercising with an eye toward producing maximum suffering) everyone. It was not actually quite as sadistic as it first appeared as the blood flushing through your body actually made the pain of the shot go away fairly quickly. More quickly than rest would have.
I have questioned other military veterans and many if not all experienced the same thing. What for?
In boot camp, as well as colleges and other places, where you bring in people in large numbers from numerous places in the country, you create an environment ripe for “Influenza-Like Illness”. When I was in boot camp they just called it the “Ricky Crud”. Ricky referred to the old derogatory term “Ricky Recruit” you were labeled with when you entered Navy boot camp. The penicillin shot was intended to prevent the viral infection, that was likely to happen in some recruits, from transitioning to a potentially more serious bacterial infection.
The interesting thing though was that no one really knew what specific viruses the crud consisted of. They did not test you. They did not care exactly what you had. They just preemptively treated you to hopefully avoid the possible bacterial infection that could result.
It was this experience that made this next study so interesting to me from the Oxford Academic Open Forum for Infectious Diseases.
This was a study of the “crud” in Army Boot Camp at Fort Benning Georgia in 2017. Here is what they had to say.
“The most frequently detected pathogens in the 10 symptomatic cases were coronavirus (5, 50%), rhinovirus (4, 40%), other enterovirus (3, 30%), and influenza A (2, 20%). Pathogen co-detections were common, 8 out 10 cases were associated with 2 pathogens, representing 7 unique combinations. While rhinovirus and coronavirus were most common among asymptomatic trainees, 10% had detectable influenza A. Detection of multiple pathogens was common in the first two weeks of training (50% among those who had viral detection). The study is still in progress.”
It would appear that “the flu” is often not really influenza. In 50% of these cases it involved coronavirus and often other viruses. In the big scheme of things, influenza was a minor player compared to coronavirus and other viruses.
This is only one study, in one place and a small one at that. But the Fort Benning study, in light of 490,600 hospitalizations for “influenza” with only 177,039 clinically tested positive cases of influenza, makes one wonder about the accuracy of influenza diagnosis prior to COVID 19.
One more tidbit: In roughly the year prior to starting this article, I noted about 370,000,000 COVID tests in the US the previous year compared to an average of roughly 1.1 to 1.2 million influenza tests in a typical year. I think it safe to say that coronavirus was tested more than any other virus ever has been in the US. (Perhaps I am wrong on this but I doubt it.) It was a unique thing to do because we in fact found out more information (granted some of it perhaps distorted) about the viral landscape than we ever knew before. (Too bad we did not test for other viruses at the same time.) And even with the possibly distorted testing, we found a lot of coronavirus.
Maybe it tells us why the flu vaccine so often does not seem to work very well. Maybe because we are not getting nearly as much of the flu as we originally were led to believe. Maybe coronavirus is always the most dominant, maybe even most dangerous respiratory virus.
And if you want to think a little “conspiratorial”, maybe this was well known in some circles. And maybe it was information being held from broad public discussion for a rainy day. Or maybe a rainy election year. But I digress.
This is not yet actionable information but the next topic builds on this and is actionable.
Vaccine, Therapy and General Health Implications
This is a very touchy topic but one that I would like to address in light of the previous topic.
First I do not intend to convince anyone to get or not get the current vaccines. Nor do I intend to tell you whether I am vaccinated or not. I am entirely opposed to vaccine mandates and I am entirely opposed to vaccine shaming, which ironically I think goes both ways on this issue now. People in support of the vaccine get pretty nasty at times but unfortunately some of those against the vaccine get pretty ugly about the subject as well.
There are those, like Dr. Geert Vanden Bossche, who would argue that the current vaccines are good for minority of people but are being administered at the wrong time (in the middle of a pandemic) potentially damaging future immune response to later coronavirus variants both on an individual and herd level.
There are others like Dr. Raul Garcia-Rodriguez who would argue that, although he is vehemently opposed to forced vaccinations, that the current vaccinations are safe and effective and contribute to herd immunity and increase individual safety. He would also argue that those who have already had COVID have good immunity and also contribute to herd immunity and may rationally choose to not get vaccinated.
There are others, but I find these two to be very reasonable and on opposite sides of this debate without being hard-core “vaxxers” or “anti-vaxxers”. I recommend studying both men’s ideas.
Not to offend anyone, but I mostly dismiss those who argue that this is an intentional depopulation scheme, that there are tracking chips in the vaccines and other such ideas. I always say “Never say Never” so I do not give these thoughts zero probability but I give them pretty low probability. The vaccine debate should be based on the available science as to whether it is safe and effective or not.
There is another thing I personally reject in the whole vaccine argument. I do not believe either the vaccines or the COVID19 disease are enormous dangers. Those for the vaccine would try to paint a picture of grave danger from the disease if you are not vaccinated. Those against the vaccine would try to paint a picture of grave danger from side effects if you get the vaccine. The numbers and my personal observations do not support either stance at all. Not in the least. I have known many who have had COVID and only two have died and one was old and the other sick from cancer. I have known many more who have had the vaccine and I have heard second-hand stories of two deaths and no first-hand stories. I have heard a few second-hand stories of injury. Nothing firsthand on either account.
At my age, I know lots of dead people from all causes and the numbers continue to grow. COVID19 disease and COVID19 vaccine deaths are not major additions. Any numbers I see from any source support my observations. So whichever decision you make, your odds are good despite what the fear mongers tell you. Yes if it strikes you, it sucks to be you. But News Flash. You will die of something eventually. Be at peace while you are alive.
The two “conspiracies” I do subscribe to is that the drug companies do not want to give up one of their biggest ever cash cows and some politicians do not want to give up their newfound draconian powers. I think both of these theories border on fact because that is just human nature. These “fact/theories” should make us more cautious but should not necessarily be the most dominant factors in our decision-making. It should be the science.
Unfortunately, despite people on both sides who say “The science is clear”, to me the science is anything but clear on either side of the argument.
(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 3.)