Grant it, this is a 'new strain', but all this talk of Swine flu brought back a flood of memories from fall of 1976 when, at the ripe young age of 13, I stood in a line that went around the block just to get my inoculation against the dreaded Swine Flu.
Check out these 'Swine Flu Propaganda' public service announcements produced to help scare everyone into quickly lining up for their shot:
Although many might remember the Swine Flu scare of '76, few know the back story to this campaign for mass inoculation of America. Paul Mickle of The Trentonian wrote a detailed account of this moment in history - totally worth the click and read (especially as we watch America face to face with a possible repeat scenario) ... but here's some highlights from his article:
On the cold afternoon of February 5, 1976, an Army recruit told his drill instructor at Fort Dix that he felt tired and weak but not sick enough to see military medics or skip a big training hike.
Within 24 hours, 19-year-old Pvt. David Lewis of Ashley Falls, Mass., was dead, killed by an influenza not seen since the plague of 1918-19, which took 500,000 American lives and 20 million worldwide.
Two weeks after the recruit's death, health officials disclosed to America that something called "swine flu" had killed Lewis and hospitalized four of his fellow soldiers at the Army base in Burlington County.
Thus was born what would become known to some medical historians as a fiasco and to others as perhaps the finest hour of America's public health bureaucracy.
Only young Lewis died from the swine flu itself in 1976. But as the critics are quick to point out, hundreds of Americans were killed or seriously injured by the inoculation the government gave them to stave off the virus.
By mid-March '76, CDC Director Dr. David J. Sencer had lined up most of the medical establishment behind his plan to call on Ford to support a $135 million program of mass inoculation.
By Oct. 1, the makers had the serums ready and America's public health bureaucracy had lined up thousands of doctors, nurses and paramedics to give out the shots at medical centers, schools and firehouses across the nation.
Jim Florio, then an ambitious rookie Democratic congressman supporting Jimmy Carter for president, didn't use the situation to take a shot at Ford. He lined up and was the first Jersey resident to take the inoculation.
Within days, however, several people who had taken the shot fell seriously ill. On Oct. 12, three elderly people in the Pittsburgh area suffered heart attacks and died within hours of getting the shot, which led to suspension of the program in Pennsylvania.
As of this writing we have 40 cases of Swine Flu - with no US fatalities - and the Obama administration announced that it was responding aggressively as if the outbreak would spread into a full pandemic. That is the smart way to handle this and I am grateful that we have an administration in place that is taking this issue seriously.
While watching the morning coverage today, besides traveling back to my youth I also felt a wave of anger. Anger over media's use of words like 'pandemic' and the front & center coverage of this story.
Flashback 25 years ago to a time when a major health crisis was affecting America; over 4,200 citizens had died of AIDS but you could barely get a friggin' late-night mention on cable access from the media, since it was a 'gay plague'. I suppose my anger comes from remembering that time in history when we did not have such a luxury, and had to swim (or sink) on our own.