In the spring of 2009, I came down with the swine flu.
At first, I assumed it was just, you know, “the flu,” whatever strain happened to be going around that particular year, and naturally I expected it to be like the bouts of flu I’d had before in my life. The first weeks of what I later learned was swine flu were pretty much like that –- really bad, with fever and misery but not something that made me think I needed to make out my will.
But over the weeks, it didn’t get better. It got worse, and “metastasized” into pneumonia and pleurisy, an extremely painful inflammation of the tissue surrounding the lungs, which I found out later was one of the typical complications. Since mine was one of the early cases –- part of the “first wave,” as they decided to call it after the “second wave” came along –- they didn’t have a test for it; I found out many weeks later from a doctor that it was definitely swine flu. He could tell for sure from the distinct pattern of complications and also the timing of my infection.
The searing pain in my chest came with every breath –- coughing was agony –- and went on for many weeks. As a singer, I was very concerned about this, but it did gradually subside. (A couple of years ago, however, out of the blue, I had a sudden “attack” that dropped me to my knees and seemed like what I imagine a heart attack would be. I went to the ER, where X-rays revealed scarring from the pleurisy that had become inflamed for some reason and caused excruciating pain. I still keep an inhaler around in case this happens again.)
With the hysterical news coverage Wuhan coronavirus is getting, I’ve been trying to think back to the spring of 2009 and remember the kind of coverage swine flu received. There were big differences in the way these two contagions started. For one thing, it seemed to take a long time in 2009 for them to figure out what they were dealing with. While this coronavirus doesn’t seem to affect younger people so much, swine flu was just the opposite; it didn’t affect older people as much as it did young adults. In fact, most people over 60 were found to have antibodies against it, probably from some other related strain of flu that had circulated many years before.
Swine flu, as I recall, was brought up from Mexico (I live in North Texas and had a lot of contact with people from Mexico) and hadn't been talked about much when I started showing flu symptoms. A vaccine was produced later but wasn’t widely available until November (!), after the illness had peaked. I didn’t see a doctor until the lung problems got really serious; he gave me some antibiotics to fight any opportunistic bacterial infection and also a steroid pack for the inflammation. The way I feel about hospitals, they would have had to drag me there, no matter how sick I was.
I’ve done a little research and found that President Obama didn’t declare a national emergency until October of 2009. As reported in THE NEW YORK TIMES, “The declaration came as thousands of people lined up in cities across the country to receive vaccinations, and as federal officials acknowledged that their ambitious vaccination program had gotten off to a slow start. Only 16 million doses of the vaccine are available now, and about 30 million were expected by the end of the month. Some states have requested 10 times the amount they have been allotted.”
The NYT went on to say that by then, there was widespread flu activity in 46 states and millions had already had it. There was no exact count, but the virus had killed over 1,000 and hospitalized over 20,000.
The Department of Health and Human Services had declared an emergency in April (when I first got sick), but Obama didn’t make his presidential declaration until October, which sounds like an eternity to me. This declaration was required in order to to waive patients’ privacy and also to ensure that patients weren’t discriminated against based on their source of funds for care.
Really, I was so sick at the time that it’s hard for me to remember the politics of it, but William A. Jacobson at LEGAL INSURRECTION, who also had swine flu in 2009, remembers more. There wasn’t the sense of panic we’re seeing now, he recalls, certainly not in the early months. “But I do remember,” he says, “then as now, Democrats and the media tried to blame Republicans, specifically spreading false claims that Republicans had prevented funding pandemic preparations (sound familiar?).”
He goes on: “There is a big difference between then and now. It was not an election year. Obama was in the first year of his first term. Trump is in the fourth year of his first term, so the Wuhan coronavirus media frenzy combines real panic with hyperventilated anti-Trump news coverage.” They so dearly want this virus to be Trump’s Katrina.
"Two things are true at the same time,” he says. “Wuhan coronavirus should be taken seriously as a public health danger, and Democrats and the media are trying to weaponize it for election purposes.”
I would add that they should be ashamed of themselves for doing this, but that they won’t be, as they have no shame. They are, pardon the expression, swine.
Here’s what Jacobson wrote about the Democrats’ blame-throwing in late April of 2009, just as I was experiencing the swine flu myself. They were trying to blame Bush, he said, though Bush had spent billions during his time in office preparing for a pandemic. In the spring of 2009, new President Obama was slow on the uptake; he hadn’t yet chosen a surgeon general or the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His choice to head the Food and Drug Administration still awaited confirmation. Seems it wasn’t till the “second wave” of the illness that they picked up the pace. For some perspective on the political atmosphere surrounding Wuhan coronavirus vs. swine flu, I recommend it highly.
It seems to me that the response to the swine flu outbreak in the U.S. was very slow compared to Trump’s fast and aggressive action against Wuhan coronavirus. It also seems that Bush was blamed while Obama got a pass (surprise). Today, the coronavirus is seen by Trump’s enemies as the “black swan,” the unanticipated event that could change everything –- maybe lead to Trump losing a second term. And that is their obsession.
I wish that, somehow, all the hatchet-job commentary and ridiculous political correctness could be set aside from real information. As someone with an “underlying condition” –- permanent scarring from a previous viral infection –- I need to know how careful to be and what to do if I get sick. So give me the facts or else, please, for the love of God, shut up.
This means you, Ayanna Pressley.
Blogger James Lileks also has a fascinating month-by-month reminder of how the Obama Administration handled the swine flu pandemic and how the media covered it. What a difference from today!