Hopeful Sign

While filling out the paperwork at Walgreens on Friday for the H1N1 flu shot I noticed something that made me smile.  There among the data requested before having the shot administered was a space for my age.  There was not one…or two….BUT three blank spaces provided.   James and I smiled at each other, and he reminded me that I will need that third space before he will.  

(A reminder that all are now able to get the H1Ni shots and while there seems to be a lull in the flu season, once college break ends in mid-January that tide is likely to be reversed.)

First Week Of Classes And 2,000 Are Sick With Swine Flu At Washington State University

Like a wildfire.

More than 2,000 students at Washington State University have come down with swine flu symptoms in just the first week of classes, school officials said Friday.

Classes at the Pullman, Wash., campus began little over a week ago, demonstrating how quickly the H1N1 virus can spread.
 
The university, where 18,500 students live and study, is advising those who manifest flu-like symptoms to skip class. “We’re telling them to follow the advice of the experts: Go to bed, drink fluids, take acetaminophen and monitor your temperature,” said spokesman James Tinney.
 
As yet, no classes or university functions have been canceled, including this weekend’s football game against conference rival Stanford. Hand-washing stations will be set up at stadium concession stands, and fliers have been posted discouraging anyone who is sick from attending the game.
 
Though the virus has been widespread, no one at the university has been hospitalized in this latest outbreak. “It seems to last for three to five days,” Tinney said.
 
A presidential panel estimates that upward of half of the U.S. population could come down with the H1N1 this year.

Swine Flu Cartoons

This is clearly a serious situation, but there have been some good political cartoons over this issue, and they can be found here.

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Mapping The Swine Flu Outbreak

Another way to look at the swine flu situation on a continuing basis.

Senator Susan Collins, Flu Pandemic, And The Economy

What does fighting a flu pandemic have to do with the national economy?  Maybe Republican Senator Susan Collins can see the answer now.

How Republicans Responded To Flu Pandemic Concerns

After I read a comment and link about the swine flu this morning on my blog  it seems worthy of posting in detail.  First off however, a hat tip to Mal.  The article is written my John Nichols.

The attack on pandemic preparation became so central to the GOP strategies that AP reported in February: “Republicans, meanwhile, plan to push for broader and deeper tax cuts, to trim major spending provisions that support Democrats’ longer-term policy goals, and to try to knock out what they consider questionable spending items, such as $870 million to combat the flu and $400 million to slow the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.”

Famously, Maine Senator Collins, the supposedly moderate Republican who demanded cuts in health care spending in exchange for her support of a watered-down version of the stimulus, fumed about the pandemic funding: “Does it belong in this bill? Should we have $870 million in this bill No, we should not.”

Even now, Collins continues to use her official website to highlight the fact that she led the fight to strip the pandemic preparedness money out of the Senate’s version of the stimulus measure.

The Republicans essentially succeeded. The Senate version of the stimulus plan included no money whatsoever for pandemic preparedness. In the conference committee that reconciled the House and Senate plans, Obey and his allies succeeded in securing $50 million for improving information systems at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

But state and local governments, and the emergency services that would necessarily be on the frontlines in any effort to contain a pandemic, got nothing.

Did Rove, Collins and their compatriots want a pandemic?

Of course not.

They were just playing politics, in the exceptionally narrow and irresponsible manner that characterized the Republican response to the stimulus debate – and that, because of Democratic compromises in the Senate, dumbed down the plan President Obama ultimately signed.

No serious player in Washington has been unaware of the fears with regard to a flu pandemic. They have been well-publicized and well-discussed. Even Collins admitted as she objected to the House allocation for preparedness: “I think that everybody in the room is concerned about a pandemic flu.”

And it is important to point out that no serious player in Washington could have been unaware of the threat that a pandemic — or even the fear of one — would pose to economic renewal. Every discussion about a pandemic begins with the public health component but moves quickly to an acknowledgement that an outbreak, and the ensuing quarantines, would bring economic activity to a virtual standstill.

So Rove, Collins and those who echoed their know-nothing appeals understood that they were wrong.

But they bet that they would be able to score their political points without any consequences.

Now that fears of a pandemic have been raised, however, it is appropriate to ask whether individuals who are so manifestly irresponsible and partisan should be taken seriously.

This is an especially important concern with regard to Collins, who portrays herself as a moderate who tries to make things work in Washington.

Senate Democratic leaders bowed to Collins in the process of crafting their chamber’s version of the stimulus. In doing so, they eliminated more than 80 percent of the modest amount of money that had been allocated for pandemic preparedness — and all of the money that would have helped emergency services.

Collins played politics with public health, and the economic recovery. That makes her about as bad a player as you will find in a town full of bad players.

But Senate Democrats bent to her demands. That makes them, at the very least, complicit in the weakening of what needed to be a muscular plan.

The bottom line is that there were no heroes in either party on the Senate side of the ugly process that ridiculed and then eliminated pandemic preparedness funding.

Swine Flu Could Be Next Major Headline

Over the past 48 hours this story about swine flu is becoming THE story.

Churches stood empty Sunday in heavily Roman Catholic Mexico City after services were canceled, and health workers screened airports and bus stations for people sickened by a new strain of swine flu that experts fear could become a global epidemic.

President Felipe Calderon has assumed new powers to isolate people infected with the deadly swine flu strain that Mexico’s health minister says has killed up to 81 people and likely sickened 1,324 since April 13.

Mexican soldiers and health workers patrolled the capital’s subway system handing out surgical masks and looking for possible flu cases. People were advised to seek medical attention if they suffered from multiple symptoms — which include a fever of more than 100 degrees, body aches, coughing, a sore throat, respiratory congestion and, in some cases, vomiting and diarrhea.

Hundreds of public events from concerts to sports matches to were called off to keep people from congregating and spreading the virus in crowds. Zoos were closed and visits to juvenile correction centers were suspended.