Life, Like Football, Requires Great Defense
n April 2009, I remember hearing
the first reports of a potentially
virulent strain of influenza called
"Swine Flu."While the outbreak
started in rural Mexico, a few
isolated cases had already shown
up in California and Texas.
By the end of the following
month, Swine Flu, also known as
H1N1, had swept through all 50
states and the virus'first fatalities
were confirmed by the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention in
As that summer unfolded, and
the number of infections grew, I couldn't help but think
about Richard Preston's 1994 book The Hot Zone and the
Dustin Hoffman film Outbreak. I also couldn't help but feel a
Over the course of that summer, my wife or I would call
our pediatrician's office weekly to see whether they had
received H1 N1 vaccine for our kids. By August, only our
youngest, who was 18 months at the time, could get the
vaccine. Our two older children had to wait. Supplies for
their age group, which required a different potency, were in
Summer turned into fall and news about H1 N1, which by
then had been deemed a global pandemic, was unrelenting;
still no vaccine available at the pediatrician's office. More panic.
Then, a friend mentioned hearing about a clinic in
Detroit that had the vaccine available — no appointment
required. Around the same time, the Oakland County
Health Department was preparing to hold a mass vac-
cination drive at the Pontiac Silverdome. Neither choice
In the end, we opted for the clinic. (Images of a hur-
ricane-ravaged New Orleans Superdome have perhaps
scarred me for life.)
The Thea Bowman Community Health Center on Fenkell
and Evergreen was no Henry Ford Hospital or luxe Detroit
Medical Center facility, which Detroit Receiving Hospital
would qualify as given the comparison.
In addition to being the only suburbanites at the Bow-
man Health Center that morning, we were the only people
there for vaccine despite its packed waiting room. Twenty
minutes, some plastic bandages and two lollipops later, we
were back in the car on our way to school.
This month's Red Thread Q & A on page
16 is with Dr. Nathan Wolfe, one of the
world's leading virologists — who also
happens to be a local boy from West
Bloomfield. He will be back in Detroit the
beginning of November speaking about
his new book The Viral Storm: The Dawn of
a New Pandemic Age at the Jewish Book
Fair (7:45 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 6, at the Jew-
ish Community Center in West Bloomfield).
As a global virus hunter, Wolfe is but
one of a few brave souls daring enough to
repeatedly go into "the hot zone:' His at-
tempt to track new and emergent patho-
gens is one of the few safeguards that
exists between us — humanity — and the
next outbreak of H1 N1, SARS or worse.
Another bulwark is vigilance in vac-
cinating our children against already
A look at the H1 N1 virus under an electron microscope.
preventable diseases. Yet, according to
a recent study by University of Michigan
researchers on parents and their children's
vaccination schedules, findings on this
HAPPY FIRST BIRTHDAY TO US
front provide less encouragement than one would expect.
November 2010 just seems like yesterday, doesn't it?
The report, published in the October 2011 edition of
(They grow up so fast!) In the year since we first launched,
Pediatrics, was eye-opening due to the number of re-
Red Thread has gone through some growing pains, but is a
spondents who acknowledged deviating from standard
stronger publication for it.
prescribed vaccination allotments and intervals.
We are ever evolving — always innovating to become a
Results showed more than one in 10 parents use an
richer and more relevant read. For example, we are proud
"alternativenvaccination schedule for their young children,
of the recently added Opinion section. Providing a forum
including refusing vaccines altogether.
for disparate points of view is one of this magazine's goals.
Based on these findings, researchers expressed concern
With that, we offer our apologies that the promised
that more parents may be refusing vaccines in the future,
editorial by Rabbi Simcha Tolwin does not appear. Rabbi
raising the risk that diseases like measles and whooping
Tolwin chose to demur from publishing a response to last
cough will spread in schools and communities.
Parents who skip or delay vaccines typically cited safety
month's essay by Joshua Einstein, as previously planned.
concerns, among which included the now-debunked idea
The rabbi expressed his regret and extends his apologies.
of a link between vaccines and autism.
We look forward to his participation at a later date.
In our brief conversation, Wolfe made it clear that the
We hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving!
best safeguard against another deadly pandemic is vigi-
lance, which includes vaccination against already con-
quered diseases like measles.
An estimated 21 million deaths worldwide were caused
by the H1 N1 pandemic of 1918. A pandemic today, where
a century's worth of transportation innovation makes our
Bryan S. Gottlieb
world a much smaller place, will spread even faster and
likely be as devastating.
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