What If Swine Flu Strikes Congress (Again)?

An editorial from the Post and Times Herald in August 1957, "Plague Upon Our House," urged steps to combat the flu, noting that while doctors said it had been mild in the previous summer, a worse epidemic could come.

"Thus, the reports of doctors who have had opportunity to study the progress of the new epidemic in Asia and Europe that its effects are seldom fatal are only partly reassuring, since it is remembered that the first wave of the influenza in 1917 was likewise relatively mild and the disease did not work its wholesale mortalities until the following winter," the editorial read.

The expected deployment of the vaccine appears similar to the current situation as well.

"It is upon the newly developed vaccine for the Asian Influenza that American epidemiologists are counting to keep the disease within control next winter. The main trouble seems to be that by the time the epidemic is expected to strike with great force -- that is, early in the autumn -- there will not be enough of the vaccine available," the authors of the editorial wrote.

While the 1968-69 epidemic, known as the Hong Kong flu, also caused a significant number of deaths, none of them appear to be among those in the highest level of government.

Swine Flu In High Places

With flu season fast approaching, no one knows yet how deadly this virus will be. While it has yet to affect U.S. leadership, it was announced last week that Colombian President Alvaro Uribe had contracted H1N1.

As for the U.S., Schaffner noted that as health care reform was debated, he hoped that one piece of legislation he would like to see would help in the event of future epidemics.

"I hope the health care reform package includes all recommended vaccines from birth through senior citizenship. We need that badly," he said.

And Schaffner hopes members of Congress take advantage of health care options they already have.

"The first thing I would hope is that they all get vaccinated against seasonal influenza, because that vaccine is currently available," he said. "Many, possibly members of Congress themselves, are overlooking regular seasonal vaccine. We very well could have a double-barreled influenza outbreak this season."

He noted that their families should follow that advice as well.

"All the advice we're giving to the general population would apply to members of Congress, of course, and while they're at it, they should get their families vaccinated."

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