according to the CDC...

CDC’s flu figures challenged

WASHINGTON — Are flu death figures more PR than science? According to an analysis in the British Medical Journal, U.S. data on influenza deaths is a mess, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges its experts to "predict dire outcomes" during flu seasons. The CDC acknowledges a difference between flu death and flu-associated death, yet uses the terms interchangeably, the journal reports.

According to the CDC website, about 36 000 people in the United States die from flu and "influenza/pneumonia" each year, making it the seventh leading cause of death. However, the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics actually says that "influenza and pneumonia" took 62,034 lives in 2001, with 61,777 attributed to pneumonia and only 257 to flu. Flu virus was positively identified in only 18 cases. Between 1979 and 2002, NCHS data show an average 1348 flu deaths per year.

In a written statement, CDC media relations responded to the apparent conflict: "Typically, influenza causes death when the infection leads to severe medical complications." And, as most such cases "are never tested for virus infection ... CDC considers these [NCHS] figures to be a very substantial undercounting of the true number of deaths from influenza. Therefore, the CDC uses indirect modeling methods to estimate the number of deaths associated with influenza."

from the Vermont Guardian

& according to the Pentagon - (and BioPort, Inc.)

Effects of Anthrax vaccine downplayed

NEWPORT NEWS, VA — The Pentagon never told Congress about more than 20,000 hospitalizations involving troops who took the anthrax vaccine from 1998 through 2000, despite repeated promises that such cases would be publicly disclosed. Instead, generals and Defense Department officials claimed that fewer than 100 people were hospitalized or became seriously ill after receiving the shot, according to an investigation by the Daily Press of Newport News.

Written policies required that public reports be filed for hospitalizations, serious illnesses and cases where someone missed 24 hours or more of duty. But only a few of the cases were actually reported; the rest were withheld from Congress and the public, according to records obtained by the Daily Press. Critics of the vaccine, veterans' advocates and congressional staffers say the Pentagon's deliberate low-balling of hospitalizations helped persuade Congress and the public that the vaccine was safe.

Withholding the full record contributed to a shorter list of government-recognized side effects for the drug, which gave patients and physicians a false idea of what might constitute a vaccine-related illness or problem. Repeated evidence of the same adverse side effect after a vaccination is one of the most telling signs of a systematic problem, vaccine safety experts say.

The newspaper found three cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), known as Lou Gehrig's disease, that the military hadn't reported. The disease destroys muscles and nerves, is always fatal, and rarely hits people younger than 45. One of the three cases involves Navy Capt. Denis Army of Virginia Beach, who died in 2000 after developing symptoms less than a week after his first anthrax vaccination.

His widow filed the first public acknowledgement of his death and its connection to the vaccine after talking to a Daily Press reporter and learning that she could file a report with the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

Col. John Grabenstein, director of the military's vaccine agency, said no one from the military intentionally misled Congress or the public. The 20,765 hospitalizations merely followed vaccinations in time, without documented proof of a cause-and-effect relationship, he claimed. However, the data that the Daily Press used to document the underreporting came from an unpublished report that Grabenstein supplied in response to its request.

Quarterly analysis of the vaccine's effects ended just as the nation's only manufacturer, BioPort, Inc. regained its license in 2002, after a 1998 shutdown by federal inspectors who found safety and other problems. The decision to discontinue the quarterly monitoring end systematic long-term studies of the health of those who have taken the drug, the newspaper notes. Most studies that the Pentagon cites as support for the vaccine's safety involve monitoring that lasted no longer than a few months.

After the quarterly reviews stopped, more than a million troops were forced to take the vaccine — until a federal judge ruled last year that the drug had never been adequately licensed for protection against anthrax use in warfare. He ordered the military to make vaccination voluntary. The Pentagon is appealing that ruling. A decision is expected by February.

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