You know when you have those “lightbulb” moments?
I had one yesterday.
As I listened to the president’s press conference, I was taken back to the worst week of my college years—the week I came down with H1N1 or “Swine Flu.” Right before I became ill with what I can only describe as walking dead syndrome (and, actually, the reason my husband eventually took me to the ER was because I fell out of the car—so I guess I wasn’t even walking, dead or otherwise), I remember a mild panic at my school where everyone (myself included) started coming to class with Lysol wipes in tow after the government began quietly sounding alarm bells.
Anthropology class and the slightly nauseating smell of disinfectant—ahh, memories.
For a few months following the initial outbreak I remember temperature scanners in airports and sick people wearing masks—but that was about it. Unlike the current pandemic, I didn’t have to fight off rabid shoppers for the last package of toilet paper or stock up on staples like the world was ending tomorrow… but I’ve digressed.
According to the CDC, there were 60.8 million cases of H1N1 in the US from April 2009 – April 2010. You’d assume I’m among those 60.8 million people.
But let me throw a wrench in the works: I had it (and ohhh boy did I have it), but I’m not counted in that official tally. I wasn’t tested.
Unlike today’s pandemic in which false test results abound, and comorbidities (like, say, gunshot wounds or complications from a hip fracture) are passed over in favor of using the victim’s positive COVID test in order to list it as the cause of death, “the CDC [under the Obama administration] abruptly advised states to stop testing for H1N1 flu, and stopped counting individual cases,” in July of 2009.
I got sick in the fall of 2009. Stay with me, ya’ll.
Upon arriving to the ER, I writhed in discomfort and near-delirium. Anyone who knows me knows I’m no stranger to illness—so I’ve seen my share of colds, flus, strep throat, mono, and just about everything else in between. I have never, I repeat, NEVER felt the way I did that week. This was not your average illness; not by a mile.
The hospital seemed to agree.
When the doctor came in to examine me, something he said stuck out—even in my altered state. He said he was of the opinion that yes, I did have the swine flu—but that it was “pointless” to do a test since there wasn’t really anything to do about it except down the painkillers and get plenty of water and sleep. Don’t believe me? Ask the dishes. (Sorry—I couldn’t resist; too much Disney going on in this house. As I was saying, ask the husband.)
It seemed odd to me to hear that—given I was in a place where more often than not, they’d rather run too many tests than too few. What about informing my school? What about the public health officials I’d started hearing about? Don’t they need to know? How should I isolate? How should I make sure that I don’t spread H1N1? What are the complications? How could the doctor be so “meh” about it if he thought I had it?
In the end, I was sent home with the aforementioned OTC painkillers and proceeded to lay in bed for a solid week.
That interaction stayed with me over a decade later, occasionally resurfacing in my consciousness as a general musing. I’ve always wondered about it.
Yesterday, as the president countered Joe Biden’s claims of superior pandemic management—he again pointed to the CDC’s abrupt halt of H1N1 testing and record keeping during the pandemic. It seems odd, indeed, that in the middle of a global pandemic not totally dissimilar to the one we’re in now, that the very same people now claiming that Trump hasn’t done enough are the ones who then halted efforts to fully understand the extent of H1N1.
Very interesting indeed.
And just like that, my weird ER visit suddenly makes sense. I wasn’t tested or recorded—because the CDC said not to.
I wonder how many more people there are just like me? Maybe that’s why we didn’t see the same panicked reaction. Maybe that’s why the world didn’t come to a screeching halt like it has with COVID-19. After all, why would it with those numbers?
Whatever the reason, it certainly makes you think.
Mary Ramirez is a full-time writer, creator of www.afuturefree.com. She contributes to The Chris Salcedo Show on KSEV 700 Radio in Houston, and on Newsmax TV. She can be reached via email@example.com.