The above documentary by CBS’s “60 Minutes” discusses the swine flu epidemic of 1976 and the federal government-sponsored inoculations that possibly caused 500 people to get Guillain-Barré syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes the body’s immune system to attack the peripheral nervous system. At first, sufferers feel a tingling sensation in the legs, but weakness and the sensations can spread to the arms and upper body. These symptoms can increase in intensity until certain muscles or the whole body is paralyzed. In extreme cases, the disorder is life-threatening, because the paralysis affects breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. The patient is often put on a respirator to help with breathing and is watched closely for other problems. The government cut short its vaccination program after 10 weeks because of the public backlash that resulted after 25 people died from Guillain-Barré. This video is only the second time I’ve heard about the outbreak of swine flu in 1976. The first time was on the release form I signed in order to get a regular flu shot. While conducting a quick Google search I came across a few references to the 1976 epidemic — in Time, the Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times — but all of these articles were written in late April/early May, not when people were receiving the vaccine. I’m sure there was something in fine print on the current swine flu vaccine release form about the 1976 swine flu epidemic and the cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, but do you think the federal government should have done more to educate people about the 1976 outbreak? Maybe the insistence on it being called H1N1 was an effort to separate the current swine flu from the 1976 one, and, thereby, to assuage the fears of those who remember the inoculation debacle? Do you remember the 1976 epidemic? And what are your thoughts on swine flu and vaccinations, in general?
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