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American health care scores ‘win’ over swine flu

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POSTED August 13, 2010 3:15 a.m.

Aren’t you glad you’re alive today?

Despite all the gloom and doom about illness and environmental health plus the implied battle cry of the health care nationalization drive that people are dying because they can’t afford care, there is a lot of good news out there in the medial and health world.

Remember the swine flu pandemic that was supposed to wipe out scores of people? It’s over. At least that’s the official word of the World Health Organization.

Just 311 deaths have been caused by the swine flu - more correctly identified as the H1N1 virus - in the past two months. That compares to 18,449 since an outbreak was first declared 14 months ago.

Compare that to the original flu that was attributed to swine that swept the globe in 1918.

One out of every four Americans became sick back then while 500,000 died.

That didn’t happen this time because vaccines - and much of the knowledge of what it takes to pursue good health - are provided at no charge to those that can’t afford it.

Granted, the debate on health care centers around after you get sick and how to pay for care one receives. It isn’t about the availability of basic preventative health care especially to the poor who have the means to access it through free programs but in some cases simply do not want to do so until such time they do get sick.

A case in point are polio vaccination efforts. About 10 years ago, an effort was made to get kids from low-income families in this country vaccinated against the scrooge that once crippled youngsters and prompted fearful parents to order their children to stay away from bodies of water where the virus was widely thought to be contracted. The reason for the effort: the national polio vaccination rate was dropping.

In San Joaquin County, only a handful made it into free vaccination clinics despite even being offered free transportation and aggressive publicity.

By contrast in The Philippines, parents were known to walk for two days with their children to get them protected against polio through efforts by Rotary International.

The big difference are those Philippines parents could see firsthand the crippling effects of polio all around them. They didn’t hesitate to access free health care services aimed at preventing diseases. That isn’t always the case in the United States.

In all fairness, most of us - questions of paying for it aside - don’t realize how fortunate we are to have access to basic preventative health care.

All you have to do is to look back at the last time Manteca – and the rest of the United States – faced a major flu epidemic that had the potential of closing schools and quarantining victims was 92 years ago and the outcome was quite different.

The severe influenza epidemic hit a peak of 202 deaths daily in the United States on Oct. 1, 1918.

Manteca’s first case was reported in October of 1918.

It prompted the Manteca City Council on Nov. 1, 1918 to pass an ordinance requiring everyone on city streets to wear a mask or face a $100 fine. All public gatherings were prohibited. Churches discounted services. All schools in the county were closed.

The teachers at the original Yosemite School – where the Sequoia Annex now stands – turned their classrooms into hospital wards. They then stayed there 24 hours a day to care for the sick.

The city sent representatives to homes where entire families were stricken to check food and clothing supplies. All groceries, linen and clothing were supplied by the city.

There were 49 families quarantined by mid-November

Public gatherings returned as Christmas approached but then there was another outbreak prompting many businesses as well as schools to again close.

There were no new cases reported in February 1919.

There were only three deaths although half of the greater Manteca community had fallen ill.

Contrast that to the swine flu epidemic that just passed.

It should make you feel pretty good about the ability of our health care system today to protect people - rich and poor - against illnesses such as the flu.


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