Fear, Fact and Trust in Public Health Crises

Autumn is a time of hope, intermingled with fear. Most of America’s northern farmers and gardeners are storing ample fruits, vegetables and grains for winter use or for sale. However regional southern drought and bee colony collapse remain urgent environmental concerns.

As for our health, ominous news of potentially lethal disease outbreaks is frightening citizens worldwide. The U.S. marked its first case of ebola diagnosed in this country. Last month a four-year-old New Jersey boy died overnight from enterovirus D68; health officials figured it out ten days later. Government health agencies cannot conveniently blame the unvaccinated here – no vaccines exist to protect against these diseases, so prompt identification and medical care are crucial.

These human health tragedies impart deadly seriousness onto Halloween’s make-believe macabre. Orange and black store displays of bloody zombies and ghouls seem less amusing when the actual threat of devastating illness and death looms closer than one ever expected.

Amplifying the public’s fears are an avalanche of advertisements promising disease prevention,  echoing morbidly through drugstores’ public address systems. Flu shots. Pneumoccocal pneumonia. Whooping cough. Shingles. Like Christmas Creep, the ads begin earlier every year, manipulating consumer worries. Nowadays vaccinations – once administered under a doctor’s care – are being given at elementary schools, grocery stores and even clothing stores.

Such retail marketing nonchalance would almost lead one to believe that those consumer products are foolproof. However the Vaccine Adverse Reporting System contains abundant case reports stating otherwise. Not to mention the many parent videos on YouTube reporting their children’s vaccine adverse reactions, often into painfully intractable chronic illness and regressive autism. Already the comparatively fewer victims of ebola have garnered far more attention, sympathy and action than the countless injuries and fatalities caused by autism.

Vaccine vendors promise us protection from the so-called “routine” diseases, yet many questions first need answering:

Evidence not yet found in mainstream media indicates that CDC vaccine program management deliberately altered data showing that Thimerosal causes tics and possibly autism. For valid proof, who could be more convincing than senior CDC scientist Dr. William Thompson on this audio recording:

“I can say, tics are four times more prevalent in kids with autism. There is biologic plausibility right now to say that thimerosal causes autism-like features.”

Statements like these, backed up with FOIA documents, at the very least logically create firm skepticism about anything that U.S. government health officials say on the topic of infectious disease prevention.

On Oct. 3 Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious diseases director at the National Institutes of Health, lauded the nation’s health care system with a hero narrative, saying it’s “well-equipped to stop Ebola in its tracks.” However the Texas ebola victim was sent home from an emergency room and allowed to mingle with family for days before he was finally properly diagnosed.

So far public health has failed to clearly communicate about how ebola is spread – if only through direct contact with body fluids, then why do we see CDC workers in masks and full body suits? And the resultant government scramble to identify and quarantine contacts raises debate about containment procedures versus civil liberties. As one cynical reporter on artificial narratives has said, “This is a perfect way for surveillance advocates to win love for their Machine.”

Granted, public health policymakers face challenges in parsing language so laymen can comprehend, or to set a tone that won’t stoke mass public panic. Sometimes the effect is an unintended echo of previous government semantics. For example, a report in the New England Journal of Medicine on the Guinea viral strain notes, “The term Ebola virus disease’was developed to emphasize that hemorrhage isn’t seen in all patients.” That diminution is reminiscent of the phrase “autism-like symptoms” created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in describing Hannah Poling’s landmark case in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

Accusations of racism have entered into the sociopolitical dialogue of ebola treatment and prevention. In 1976 the first Ebolavirus strain was discovered, by the Congo’s Ebola river. In 1995 surgeon William T. Close, M.D. wrote the documentary novel Ebola based on his experiences in the Congo. The book’s jacket poses this question: Will the world ever hear their plea for help? Four decades later our national actions provide an answer: Yes, when American lives are threatened – “our” victims are flown back to the U.S. for treatment. Ironic, considering that the World Health Organization and CDC repeatedly warn that diseases are just a plane ride away. Why the treatment inequities? If most ebola victims reside in Africa, why haven’t global health monitoring organizations ensured that the African health care infrastructure has adequate treatment facilities?

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nick Chiles points to racism and greed, concluding, “Unless governments and the WHO can come together and revamp the research and development system, these pharmaceutical behemoths will continue to focus exclusively on their bottom line — while the poor and dark people of the world continue to suffer and die in silence.”

America has its own mythic imagery from the past, although Halloween’s witches, devils and black cats serve as capitalist tools rather than handy stereotypes for cultural oppression. These gothic totems evolved from humankind’s past reliance on symbol and mysticism to explain various natural phenomena. By contrast, modern scientific advancements are held up as the antithesis of superstition – a measurable, repeatable way of quantifying and understanding. Yet scientific studies are only as good as the intellect and ethics of the reporters. As long as humans remain fallible, subject to lapses such as racism and greed, then scientific studies cannot be fully declared absolute and placed on a pedestal of authority over all.

Consider, for example, the influenza vaccine. In an interview on ebola during CBS News’ Face The Nation Oct. 5, Dr. Fauci added as a tepid afterthought, after prompting by host Bob Schieffer, “It is not a bad idea to get a flu shot.” Well, maybe it is – if it is one of those multi-dose injected influenza vaccines, which contain 50,000 parts per billion of neurotoxic ethylmercury-based Thimerosal. Studies by CIDRAP and the Cochrane Collaboration have criticized the vaccine’s lack of efficacy. But the alternative, intra-nasal vaccines, can make the recipient contagious – spreading the flu to others – for two weeks after administration.

These inconsistencies are just one of many reasons why government health agency mismanagement and corruption have made them at times as frightening as any disease they attempt to eradicate:

So why are these questionable characters still working at the upper eschelons of health care policymaking? “The inability to grasp the pathology of our oligarchic rulers is one of our gravest faults,” said political journalist Chris Hedges. “We have been blinded to the depravity of our ruling elite by the relentless propaganda of public relations firms that work on behalf of corporations and the rich.”

Case in point: A faux autism “research” group fabricated this PowerPoint presentation that teaches doctors how to manipulate vaccine-hesitant parents. This patronizing soft soap pitch manual on dodging vaccine safety concerns is being promoted by a vaccine researcher. But no amount of bullet point slogans can distract from the 100,000 incriminating CDC documents currently under investigation by members of Congress and their staff members. It is only a matter of time before the subpoenas begin appearing.

Truth is an antidote to fear. Health care consumers cannot wait for some arbitrary authority figure to dictate appropriate disease prevention action. We must act rationally and scientifically to protect the health of ourselves and our families.

  • Learn the symptoms of diseases and teach yourself how best to prevent them.
  • Build up your immune system with healthful foods and supplements.
  • Create a backup plan for family care and household maintenance in case you do become ill for any length of time.
  • Understand the priorities, limitations and flaws of government, particularly health care agencies and their close corporate partners.

The public must stop being health care ostriches, responding to manipulation of our fears by hiding our heads and closing our minds. We must empower ourselves to investigate government agencies, call our Senators and Congressional representatives, ask hard questions and demand truthful answers from the people charged with protecting our nation’s health.

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