Arctic explorer describes bout with 1918 flu in memoir
The evidence is in: expert says Mexican flu could have laboratory origin
By Peter Duveen
PETER'S NEW YORK, Thursday, May 14, 2001--As health officials worldwide
scramble to stem a flu pandemic, the public may be puzzled as to
what all the fuss is about. Flu is generally an illness which, for
most, is not more serious than the common cold. But there is good
reason for concern, if the past is any judge of what the future could
Because the strain of flu currently spreading around the world
is said to be a descendant of the Spanish flu, deaths among
those contracting the illness could be far in excess of those produced
by other strains of the virus. The Spanish flu, also named the 1918
flu, was known for the high proportion of deaths attributed to those
infected by it. It had a mortality rate of 2.5 percent or more, far greater than that of ordinary human flu.
A typical experience is related by the Arctic
explorer, Peter Freuchen, who came down with the illness soon after
returning to Denmark from Greenland in December of 1918. The following
account is from
Freuchen's 1935 memoir, Arctic Adventure: My Life in the Frozen North:
"An epidemic of the Spanish influenza
swept over Europe, and I contracted it. I was walking along the streets
of Copenhagen when suddenly I felt dizzy. I staggered up to a couple of
policemen and asked them to call me a taxi. Unfortunately there was a
telephone strike on at the moment, and they could not call for a cab.
Also, they thought I was drunk. When I denied this it only convinced
them they had been right and they bundled me off to the police station
where, fortunately, I was recognized and rushed to a hospital.
"I was kept there for four months, and
for a long time was so ill that I was isolated in a ward reserved for
dying patients. I remember that the room was meant to accommodate six
beds, but the epidemic raged so furiously that on one morning eleven
patients were brought in alive, and nine bodies carried away before
evening. I was one of the lucky two who survived. the other was a
champion wrestler and a devil to handle in his delirium as, they told
me, I was. It took three porters to hold me down, and I played football
with them, tossing them from one side of the bed to the other.
"Then Navarana (Freuchen's wife) came
to visit me, and she was the only one who could keep me quiet. My
mother and my sisters also visited me as well as a number of
newspapermen. Navarana sat beside me most of the day.....
Freuchen later says, "I was so weak after being released
from the hospital that I could not walk for a long while. My hair fell
out. I was thinner than I had ever been, and tortured with sciatica."
The flu had not done with him yet, however. His wife later came down with it, and unexpectedly passed away.
"It was apparent by now that Navarana had Spanish influenza, the same
disease to which I had fallen victim the year before. I did not leave
her side, and got our good friend, Fat Sofie, to help nurse her.
Navarana was thankful that I could be with her, though she was torn
with anxiety for her children. She would have liked me to go up to
Thule and see that Mequsaq (their son) was being cared for properly.
"The next day Navarana was worse. There was no doctor in Upernivik
(Greenland) at the time, and there was nothing more we could do for
her. In the evening she asked me what I though was the matter. Her head
was buzzing with thoughts which came unsummoned, she said. It was
ghastly to sit helpless and watch her fade away. I told her to try to
sleep, but she could not....
"Then she took my hand in hers and told me how happy she had been in
having a husband who would talk with her as an equal. And finally she
said that she was very sleepy. I went into the kitchen to brew tea for
her. As I sat and watched the water it came over me how much I loved
her, and how much she had developed since our marriage....Navarana was
so quiet that I tiptoed in to look at her. As I watched, her lip just
quivered. Then she was dead.
"I would not believe it. I had somehow never thought of the illness as
much more than a bad cold, but I called the young assistant, and he
could only concur in what I saw before me."
Soon after his wife's death, while preparing for a new expedition to
the Canadian north, one of the members of the team died.
"...the doctor gave up hope for Iggianguaq. His wife sat beside him and
held his hand, crying as she stroked his head. I new what the poor man
suffered, for he had the same symptoms I had had. He found it
increasingly difficult to catch his breath, and died one night with all
of us standing about unable to help him."
In light of the above account, and
countless others like it, it is no wonder public health officials are
concerned about a flu pandemic.
However, citizens are confused, and
have good reason to be. The U.S. government has confirmed that the
dissemination of anthrax bacterium
through the mails in October, 2001, which killed five and had the
potential to kill millions, originated
from a laboratory in Ft. Detrick,
a U.S. military installation located in
Frederick, Maryland. Anthrax powder was mailed to a number of
high-profile destinations, including members of the U.S. Senate and
prominent journalists, accompanied by notes crafted to make it look
like the act was being perpetrated by Moslems. Exposure to anthrax
triggers a disease that is often fatal if not treated on time with
In 2005, the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention announced that it had successfully resuscitated
the Spanish flu after extracting it from the dead bodies of people who
were known to have died from it. This resurrected germ caused the
of animals exposed to it. The CDC originally said it
would limit experimentation on the reborn 1918 virus to its own
facilities, but has since released samples to other countries for
News reports indicate that the Mexican
flu has elements of the Spanish flu. The possibility that the Spanish
flu could escape from a government laboratory hovers like a dark cloud over the world's population.
Not only is an accidental dispersion
of a laboratory-formulated flu a worrisome event, but a deliberate release, similar to the
anthrax attacks, is also a concern. While the Federal Bureau of
Investigation attributed the
attacks to a Ft. Detrick scientist, Bruce Ivins, immediately following his alleged
suicide in 2008 (an autopsy was not performed), many credible
individuals have doubted the FBI's conclusions. Thus, there may still
be at large a renegade scientist, or even a covert government
operation, bent on dispersing government-held microbes. In fact,
there would be nothing to stop a top-secret clique from concocting a
super-flu by mixing the deadly bird flu, which cannot be passed from
person to person, with human flu, thus creating a microbe that shares the characteristics
of both lethality and communicability.
In February, as reported by the Canadian Press and other news
agencies, it was
discovered that the U.S. pharmaceutical firm Baxter International Inc.
sent out samples of an experimental human flu vaccine that were
contaminated with the bird flu virus.
The contamination, whether deliberate or accidental, was detected when
those receiving the vaccine tested it on ferrets. The deaths of the
ferrets indicated the presence of bird flu, which is far more deadly to humans than ordinary flu. By mixing the two
microbes, scientists fear that new viruses could emerge that have both
the communicability of human flu and the deadliness of bird flu.
There can be no
such a scenario is within the realm of possibility. In fact, scientists
are capable of juggling strains of flu together in a manner
that would be impossible for nature to duplicate. As such, the recent
conclusions of a research scientist who worked on the development of
the anti-virus drug Tamiflu, is instructive.
As Bloomberg reported yesterday, Adrian Gibbs, a retired research
scientist, has written a paper indicating that the current Mexican
strain of flu may have been prepared in a laboratory and released
accidentally. The paper has been circulated among major world health
organizations for review, and the author intends to submit it for
publication, Bloomberg reported.
Gibbs found significant differences between the Mexican flu strain and those
generally infecting swine. "One of the simplest explanations is that
it's a laboratory escape," Gibbs told Bloomberg TV.
The inescapable conclusion is
that, in searching for the origin of the Mexican flu, scientists must
consider either accidental or deliberate creation and release of
such viruses, rather than restricting investigations to what might occur in nature. In particular, U.S. government
facilities, which have been known to release pathogens and to have
fabricated them in the laboratory, must be considered prime suspects in
Why would governments be interested in releasing germs and infecting the public?
A pandemic event would provide a pretext for bringing the public under government control to a degree
not tolerated under normal circumstances.
There are few things more horrifying to a society than a spreading disease that is likely to be lethal. A
pandemic could be used to cement what would amount to an extralegal
consolidation of government power while leaving cosmetic but
democratic institutions intact. Laws enacted under the threat of
terrorism during the Bush
Administration, such as the "Patriot Act," and the establishment of the
Department of Homeland Security, have made such a transformation easier
The Obama Administration and the Democratic Congress do not appear to
be mounting any opposition to the reconfiguration of government enacted
during the Bush years.
Still another reason why governments might want to be involved in
triggering a pandemic has to do with population control. A paring
down of the human populations such as would occur during a serious flu
dovetail with the hopes of those who believe the world population
sustainable at current levels, and should be drastically reduced.
Population control pundits include some of the most powerful names in
world affairs, including Bill Gates of Microsoft fame, Billionaire
George Soros, and members of the Rockefeller family who established the
Population Council in the 1950s. The above elites often gather with
U.S. officials in conclaves shielded from public scrutiny, such as the Bilderberg Group,
now convening in Greece. While some population control groups claim to be only interested in slowing population growth, others hope to see a population reduction of as much as 50 percent or more. It is known that local communities have been canvassed by the government to find out how much grave space
they have in the event of a national disaster. This begs the question
of exactly what kind of disaster the government is anticipating, and
why, and why local communities have not been tutored on ways to avoid
catastrophic death in the event of such a disaster.
It is unlikely the U.S. government would be interested in mounting
an investigation of itself, particularly in the event that it was
actually involved in such population paring activities involving
the release of human pathogens. One sign of such involvement, however,
would be rejection out of hand of any evidence or reasoning implicating
such government complicity.
All in all, any legitimate investigation into the origins of the
Mexican flu must take into account the possibility of accidental and
opportunistic manufacture and dissemination of microbes as well as
their natural generation.
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