The US Swine Flu Epidemic That Wasn’t

Why Did the CDC Hide the True Case Numbers?

This story was first published on Sharyl Attkisson’s Substack. Subscribe today: it’s free, like her other work!

In July of 2009, amid the national swine flu panic stoked by the CDC, I got two tips from insiders: the CDC had instructed hospitals and states to stop testing for swine flu! Doctors were to presume that any patients who came in with flu-like symptoms had swine flu, or H1N1, and treat them as such without testing them to confirm it.

How strange! both of my sources told me, separately. I had to agree. Why would the CDC not want to collect the best data possible during an outbreak that the agency implied could bring America to its knees? The CDC had already green lighted emergency development and approval of what could be a very lucrative swine flu vaccine.

The CDC’s official rationale for stopping tests was that swine flu had supposedly become so widespread, it was reasonable to save money on tests and just assume everyone who caught something that looked like any sort of flu had the H1N1 variety.

My sources were suspicious.

I remember the words of one of them—a government scientist. He told me, “CDC is either trying to inflate the number of swine flu cases or downplay the number. Your job is to figure out which it is.”

I was stunned by what I discovered. And a CBS News manager short-circuited the resulting story to keep it off of the Evening News.


Read on for details.

It took a lot of time and effort to get the facts of the matter.

The CDC made sure to obstruct my efforts. It’s a perfect example of how federal officials have perverted Freedom of Information (FOI) law into a tool to delay and obstruct the release of public information rather than facilitate it.

I asked to see swine flu test results that all 50 states had sent in to the CDC prior to the agency calling a halt to testing. That would tell me if the tests showed a ton of swine flu, as CDC had claimed, or not.

We own the information and CDC collects the data on our behalf. We pay the salaries of the officials and bureaucracts doing the gathering. However, instead of providing the material, which was readily at hand, the agency insisted I had to file a formal FOI request and go to the end of a loooong line to wait for an answer. I’ve waited more than 10 years to gets answers to some of my FOIs.

Instead of waiting, I decided to contact all 50 states and get the test results directly. About half of them provided the data promptly without issue. The other half balked and stalled, and I had to look at various state FOI laws, and remind the state health officials that they were required to produce the information. It was not theirs to withhold.

First, I learned that officials in some states, including California, disagreed with the CDC’s directive to stop testing for swine flu. They did not want to be quoted by name for fear of “going against the CDC.” But they thought it was crucial to gather the most hard data possible about a novel, unpredictable virus.

Once I had the state’s data in hand, it was easy to see the big story: There was no swine flu pandemic—at least in the US!

The people tested for swine flu or H1N1 prior to the CDC ordering a halt, were patients deemed most likely to have swine flu based on factors like recent travel to places that had a lot of swine flu at the time. Those specimens, my sources explained, should be nearly 100% swine flu if the CDC were correct in its assumptions about how widespread the virus was in the US.

Yet the majority of specimens weren’t swine flu at all!

I built a television news report giving the results of my investigation, had the story legally approved by my CBS lawyers, and it was set for air. A top executive at CBS News commented to me that it was the most original reporting on swine flu he’d seen done by any news organization!

But the story never aired on TV.

Before it could make it on the news, it was discussed on a group morning call, along with other stories of the day. The executive producer of the Evening Newsdidn’t want to run the report. This was at a time when a lot of my investigations began getting shaped and shelved, particularly when they involved the pharmaceutical or vaccine industry—but other stories, too. The executive producer said we should wait and air the story “when this is all over,” referring to the swine flu “fuss.”

I didn’t understand the rationale. The story was meaningful and important now—not as a lookback when it was all over. But the decision was left in her hands and the story was set aside.

So instead, I published it on our CBS News website. Like other network investigative reporters I’d spoken with, we started having trouble getting our work on the air, but we could still get it published online.

What follows is the story as published at CBS

Swine Flu Cases Overestimated?

By Sharyl Attkisson

October 21, 2009 / 9:03 AM EDT / CBS

If you’ve been diagnosed “probable” or “presumed” 2009 H1N1 or “swine flu” in recent months, you may be surprised to know this: odds are you didn’t have H1N1 flu.In fact, you probably didn’t have flu at all. That’s according to state-by-state test results obtained in a three-month-long CBS News investigation.The ramifications of this finding are important. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Britain’s National Health Service, once you have H1N1 flu, you’re immune from future outbreaks of the same virus. Those who think they’ve had H1N1 flu — but haven’t — might mistakenly presume they’re immune. As a result, they might skip taking a vaccine that could help them, and expose themselves to others with H1N1 flu under the mistaken belief they won’t catch it. Parents might not keep sick children home from school, mistakenly believing they’ve already had H1N1 flu.Why the uncertainty about who has and who hasn’t had H1N1 flu?

In late July, the CDC abruptly advised states to stop testing for H1N1 flu, and stopped counting individual cases. The rationale given for the CDC guidance to forego testing and tracking individual cases was: why waste resources testing for H1N1 flu when the government has already confirmed there’s an epidemic?

Some public health officials privately disagreed with the decision to stop testing and counting, telling CBS News that continued tracking of this new and possibly changing virus was important because H1N1 has a different epidemiology, affects younger people more than seasonal flu and has been shown to have a higher case fatality rate than other flu virus strains.

CBS News learned that the decision to stop counting H1N1 flu cases was made so hastily that states weren’t given the opportunity to provide input. Instead, on July 24, the Council for State and Territorial Epidemiologists, CSTE, issued the following notice to state public health officials on behalf of the CDC:

“Attached are the Q&As that will be posted on the CDC website tomorrow explaining why CDC is no longer reporting case counts for novel H1N1. CDC would have liked to have run these by you for input but unfortunately there was not enough time before these needed to be posted (emphasis added).”

When CDC did not provide us with the material, we filed a Freedom of Information request with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). More than two months later, the request has not been fulfilled. We also asked CDC for state-by-state test results prior to halting of testing and tracking, but CDC was again, initially, unresponsive.

While we waited for CDC to provide the data, which it eventually did, we asked all 50 states for their statistics on state lab-confirmed H1N1 prior to the halt of individual testing and counting in July. The results reveal a pattern that surprised a number of health care professionals we consulted. The vast majority of cases were negative for H1N1 as well as seasonal flu, despite the fact that many states were specifically testing patients deemed to be most likely to have H1N1 flu, based on symptoms and risk factors, such as travel to Mexico.

It’s unknown what patients who tested negative for flu were actually afflicted with since the illness was not otherwise determined. Health experts say it’s assumed the patients had some sort of cold or upper respiratory infection that is just not influenza.

With most cases diagnosed solely on symptoms and risk factors, the H1N1 flu epidemic may seem worse than it is. For example, on Sept. 22, this alarming headline came from Georgetown University in Washington D.C.: “H1N1 Flu Infects Over 250 Georgetown Students.”

H1N1 flu can be deadly and an outbreak of 250 students would be an especially troubling cluster. However, the number of sick students came not from lab-confirmed tests but from “estimates” made by counting “students who went to the Student Health Center with flu symptoms, students who called the H1N1 hotline or the Health Center’s doctor-on-call, and students who went to the hospital’s emergency room.”

Without lab testing, it’s impossible to know how many of the students actually had H1N1 flu. But the statistical trend indicates it was likely much fewer than 250.

CDC continues to monitor flu in general and H1N1 through “sentinels,” which basically act as spot-checks to detect trends around the nation. But at least one state, California, has found value in tracking H1N1 flu in greater detail.

“What we are doing is much more detailed and expensive than what CDC wants,” said Dr. Bela Matyas, California’s Acting Chief of Emergency Preparedness and Response. “We’re gathering data better to answer how severe is the illness. With CDC’s fallback position, there are so many uncertainties with who’s being counted, it’s hard to know how much we’re seeing is due to H1N1 flu rather than a mix of influenza diseases generally. We can tell that apart but they can’t.”

After our conversation with Dr. Matyas, public affairs officials with the California Department of Public Health emphasized to CBS News that they support CDC policy to stop counting individual cases, maintaining that the state has the resources to gather more specific testing data than the CDC.

Because of the uncertainties, the CDC advises even those who were told they had H1N1 to get vaccinated unless they had lab confirmation. “Persons who are uncertain about how they were diagnosed should get the 2009 H1N1 vaccine.”

That’s unwelcome news for a Marietta, Georgia mom whose two children were diagnosed with “probable” H1N1 flu over the summer. She hoped that would mean they wouldn’t need the hastily developed H1N1 flu vaccine. However, since their cases were never confirmed with lab tests, the CDC advises they get the vaccine. “I wish they had tested and that I knew for sure whether they had it. I’m not anxious to give them an experimental vaccine if they don’t need it.”

Speaking to CBS’ “60 Minutes,” CDC Director Dr. Frieden said he has confidence that the vaccine will be safe and effective: “We’re confident it will be effective we have every reason to believe that it will be safe.”

However, the CDC recommendation for those who had “probable” or “presumed” H1N1 flu to go ahead and get vaccinated anyway means the relatively small proportion of those who actually did have H1N1 flu will be getting the vaccine unnecessarily. This exposes them to rare but significant side effects, such as paralysis from Guillain-Barre syndrome.

It also uses up vaccine, which is said to be in short supply. The CDC was hoping to have shipped 40 million doses by the end of October, but only about 30 million doses will be available this month.

The CDC did not respond to questions from CBS News for this report.

For more inside stories and investigations regaring America’s health scandals, preorder my new book, “Follow the Science: How Big Pharma Misleads, Obscures, and Prevails.” (Harper Collins, September 3).

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3 thoughts on “The US Swine Flu Epidemic That Wasn’t”

  1. The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
    — H.L. Mencken

  2. Thank you for the reminder about the pandemic that wasn’t…like all the rest of them. “Pandemics” make a good cover story for other toxic trickery by government and/or corporate interests.

  3. Pingback: VIDEO Elon Musk’s reaction to story about President Trump masterfully OWNING the Taliban leader says it all.. – NarrowPathMinistries

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