There were two new stories in UK media today, indicating the lack of administrative grip on the almost entirely government fabricated situation. One was the tragic plea of a father of teenage girl who had died of tonsillitis to close down the government’s swine flu helpline (Daily Mail) and the other was a panel of government advisers –notably Prof Hugh Pennington - seeking to distance themselves from government policy in Tamiflu (Guardian UK) . This had less to do with unpleasant side-effects for Tamiflu which has recently been exciting public concern, than that it might be instrumental in a relatively benign situation of causing the virus to develop resistance to the drug.
One of the committee, Prof Robert Dingwall, told the Guardian:
"It was felt ... it would simply be unacceptable to the UK population to tell them we had a huge stockpile of drugs but they were not going to be made available."
However, firm responsibility for any public panic must lie with government and the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, who told the media a month ago that 65,000 people might die from the virus in the UK (HERE ). The yawning gap between Sir Liam and reality was demonstrated in an article by Pennington on 27 July. In a week when people were being told that 100,000 people had the virus, the government had a mere 31 confirmed cases out of 212 tested for. Pennington – who nevertheless favours a vaccination campaign – wrote:
“The best way to assess the accuracy of diagnosis in sentinel practices is to get them to send samples from patients for virology. But only 137 English patients were tested for this purpose last week; 27 were positive. As a sample supposedly covering the whole nation, this is pathetic. All that can be said in its favour is that the rest of the UK did no better; 12 tests were done in Wales (one positive) and 13 in Northern Ireland (one positive). There are 58 sentinel practices in Scotland. They sent in 50 samples; two were positive.”
The absurdity was further highlighted in the letter of Gloucester GP, Patrick Lush, to BMJ today:
“I am An Inner City GP in England, in the past 3 or 4 weeks I have been seeing patient(s) with what I suspect is H1N1 'swine flu', I am treating some of these cases with antiviral medication. The numbers of people that I diagnose will go toward making up the numbers of the UK flu epidemic numbers. But I am not allowed to take swabs on even a proportion of the cases. So that even in retrospect I will not be able to see if my diagnoses are correct. The computer saying 'rubbish in, rubbish out' comes to mind when assessing the UK statistics. Incidentally the numbers of patients with fever, myalgia and what I take to be 'swine flu' went down last week as compared to the week before. I await the late Autumn and winter with interest. “(BMJ HERE)
The stockpiling of Tamiflu goes back to the early days of the avian flu scare when Sir Liam rold the BBC that the virus was certain to combine and mutate with regular flu virus and that he expected 50, 000 people in the UK to die:
“A bird flu pandemic will hit Britain - but not necessarily this winter, the chief medical officer has said.
“Sir Liam Donaldson said a deadly outbreak would come when a strain of bird flu mutated with human flu.
“He told the BBC's Sunday AM show it would probably kill about 50,000 people in the UK, but the epicentre of any new strain was likely to be in East Asia.
“The UK has so far stockpiled 2.5m doses of anti-viral drugs - and may restrict travel if there is an outbreak.” (News BBC HERE)
How he knew this we do not know: four years later, of course, we are still waiting, although the mysterious Baxter incident earlier this year might have brought it to an end (Toronto Sun). At the very least we know that the Baxter incident did not seem to discourage the World Health Organization and the British government from ordering swine flu vaccine from them.
John Stone is UK Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.