Home (Main Menu)

Swine Flu hits North-East Ohio, 2009

Microbes may cause "autoimmune" disease

NEWS ARTICLE from The Suncoast News, 8-7-02, By Valerie Berrios

``New lab test for Lyme disease may end ALS misdiagnosis

Vincent Sota, a former Pasco County fire-fighter and emergency medical technician, died early last month after being misdiagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a fatal ailment that attacks nerve cells and affects all voluntary muscle action.

Mary Sota researched her husband's condition and came to the conclusion that he probably had Lyme disease, which mimics the symptoms of ALS, multiple sclerosis and several other diseases.

Lyme disease affects everything in the body, especially neurological functions, said Dr. JoAnne Whitaker, M. D. president and director of research for the Bowen Research & Training Institute in Palm Harbor. The diagnosis of Lyme, usually contracted from an infected tick, was more plausible for our lifestyle, explained Sota, whose family often participated in outdoor activities.

What was most frustrating about her family's ordeal was that more than a dozen doctors refused to accept her theory and, thus, did not give her husband antibiotics in time to fight the normally treatable disease, she said.

Sota's suspicions were finally validated after the Sotas went to their 14th or 15th doctor. Results of a blood sample sent to the Bowen Institute showed that Vincent tested positive for Borrelia burgdorferi, or Bb, the causative agent of Lyme.

Whitaker, a medical doctor, began testing for Lyme disease in 1999. She used a variation on an immunofluorescent test she had used early in her career to detect diphtheria, whooping cough and syphilis, among other conditions.

While administering the Bowen technique, a method used to stimulate the body to heal itself, researchers at the Bowen Institute discovered its patients with fibro-myalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and other rheumatological diagnoses were developing flu-like symptoms. Further testing showed the patients had Bb in their systems.

The Bowen technique, in effect, had drawn the antigens out of hiding. The finding led Whitaker to adapt the fluorescent test to detect Lyme.

The first test used Whitaker's own blood sample, which turned out positive for Lyme disease, a revelation Whitaker described as serendipitous.

She regards the new test method, called the rapid identification of Borrelia burgdorferi, or RIBb, as the most accurate test available because she said it is the only test that looks specifically for Bb.

Whitaker said the reason why cases like Sota's occur is because there are no good tests for Lyme disease, resulting in numerous misdiagnoses.

Most of the current Lyme disease diagnostic tests are dependent on antibodies in the blood. In some Lyme disease cases, however, antibodies may be in the tissue rather than free-floating and thus undetectable using the antibody tests, she explained.

Dr. David Reifsnyder, an infectious disease specialist in Clearwater who treats at least one Lyme disease patient a week, admitted that some strains of Lyme disease bacteria aren't detected using the standard diagnostic tests. And, he said, it is more likely to get a false negative than a false positive with the antibody tests.

Whitaker said RIBb can tell definitively if a patient has Lyme disease. "People need to know there's a good test. "

Lida H. Mattman, professor emeritus of biology at Wayne State University in Detroit, was able to culture Bb from 316 out of 316 positive samples using the same blood drawn from RIBb tests before her lab was closed due to "political reasons, " stated Whitaker.

The validation from Mattman's cultures, however, is "the reason I feel comfortable with our test, " declared Whitaker.

According to Whitaker, 32 different doctors in Florida, and hundreds worldwide, have sent blood specimens to the Bowen Institute.

Reifsnyder, one of those doctors, said he uses the Bowen Institute's test, as well as others, because it helps give him support for the course of treatment he provides his patients.

However, Reifsnyder and Sota's doctor admitted they must re-test positive Lyme samples from the Bowen Institute because the lab is not FDA approved. But, according to Sota, her doctor said all re-tests have confirmed the positive findings. Sota wouldn't identify the doctor.

Sota said the controversy surrounding the test stems from the large quantity of positives. Of the 2, 258 patients who have been tested using RIBb, almost all have tested positive, admitted Whitaker.

The percentage of positive tests is high, Whitaker said, because the test is often used just to confirm a Lyme disease diagnosis.

In addition, the large number of positives is most likely related to the lab's findings that Lyme disease is not just a tick-borne infection. The lab has found Bb in Florida and California mosquitoes and African dust.

Reifsnyder agreed it is possible Lyme could be transmitted through mosquitoes. How often that happens, however, "we don't know," he stressed.

The presence of the Lyme disease bacterium in the African dust sample remains a matter of controversy.

At the Bowen Institute's request, Eugene Shinn, a marine geologist with the U. S. Geological Survey in St. Petersburg, brought a sample of African dust he was testing for his own research to the lab. Tests on the sample showed the presence of Bb.

Excited by the finding, Shinn had the sample tested again by someone at a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laboratory in Colorado, who claimed the substance was bacteria similar to Bb, he said.

Whitaker declared it was not unusual for a CDC test to come back negative because the center used the "unreliable" antibody tests [ELISA and Western Blot].

Additionally, Whitaker concluded that the disease is more prevalent than is documented. The CDC reports that Lyme disease is mostly localized to the northeastern and upper mid-western states ...

In addition to the RIBb test, the Bowen Institute examines blood smears for the presence of co-infections often associated with Lyme disease.

In red blood cells, the parasite Babesia canis may be present; and in white blood cells, bacteria from the genus Ehrlichia may be present.

Reifsnyder stated that in some cases co-infections, including Ehrlichia, ... can be fatal. For this reason, the Bowen Institute will further study them.

The Bowen Institute has not yet published its research on RIBb because it has not collected all the necessary data. Being published will give RIBb credibility, Whitaker said.

The test will be valuable in treating Lyme disease, stated Whitaker, because RIBb can be used during the early stages of the disease, which means treatment can occur earlier.

"It's very important to get to a Lyme-literate doctor," Sota declared.

Reifsnyder admitted there are few physicians in Florida "well-versed in Lyme. Most doctors in the state don't see the disease often or haven't developed an interest in it," he said.

Meanwhile, hope for a Lyme disease cure may be on the rise. Whitaker said a research center in northern Italy is attempting to cure Lyme by killing Bb with intracellular heat. She will be one of a handful of patients to begin the treatment this month.

According to Whitaker, seven patients who have received the treatment in the Netherlands are referred to as "ex-Lyme patients." ''

Top -- Home


NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 4-27-09, by Adam Wright

``Elyria 9-year-old has swine flu

ELYRIA -- A 9-year-old Ely School student is Ohio's first confirmed case of swine flu.

The school will be closed the entire week following a recommendation the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued that all school buildings with a student that tests positive for swine flu be closed to prevent the spread of the illness, said Doug Dever, public information officer for the Lorain County Emergency Operations Center.

"The reason the CDC is pushing for the school to close is they're concerned there might be more students out there that have it but that no one's aware of it yet," Dever said. "They could have been exposed on Friday [4-24-09] and not be symptomatic until Monday, and if they're back in school they're affecting all the other classmates. They're doing this out of an abundance of caution."

Elyria schools spokeswoman Amy Higgins said an automated message was sent to families of students who attend Ely School to inform them of its closure. The school has about 350 students.

Officials from the Elyria City Health District said the boy likely picked up the illness while visiting family in Mexico last week.

He returned home last Monday [4-20-09], and although he went to school the rest of the week, he did not begin showing flu-like symptoms until Wednesday. He was taken to EMH Regional Medical Center on Friday evening, and tests later confirmed he had swine flu.

"A pediatric nurse practitioner who had seen all the reports out about swine flu put it all together and ordered the testing," said Dr. Douglas McDonald, medical director for the Elyria City Health District.

The boy, a third-grader, was sent home Friday evening and is recovering quickly, McDonald said. "My guess is you may not even know he had an illness," he said. The boy's immediate family was given a prophylaxis as a precaution, but McDonald said none of them are ill.

Parents of students who attend Ely School are being asked to watch for signs of the illness in their children. An infectious person can spread the flu for seven days after symptoms first appear.

Like seasonal flu, swine flu in humans can vary from mild to severe. Between 2005 and January 2009, 12 human cases of swine flu were detected in the United States, with no deaths occurring here, according to health officials. No vaccine guards against swine flu, but common antiviral drugs like Tamiflu can treat the illness.

On Sunday [4-26-09], the United States declared a public health emergency to deal with the emerging outbreak of swine flu, meaning officials will prepare for it as they do a natural disaster. Twenty cases of the illness have been reported in five states so far, and unlike in Mexico, where the same A/H1N1 strain of swine flu appears to be killing dozens of people, cases in the United State have been mild; and U.S. health authorities can't yet explain why ...

Roughly 12 million doses of Tamiflu will be moved from a federal stockpile to places where states can quickly get their share if they decide they need it, according to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ...

Kathryn Boylan, health commissioner of the Elyria City Health District, said she was notified by officials at EMH by 9 p.m. Friday that doctors were testing for a suspected case of swine flu. A nose swab sample of the boy was sent to Columbus for tests, and then to the CDC in Atlanta.

When tests came back positive Sunday, the Lorain County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security was called, and the Emergency Operations Center was staffed and activated by 11 a.m ...''

Contact Adam Wright at awright@chroniclet.com.


NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 4-27-09, by The Associated Press

``Pig flu: Is it time to panic yet?

ATLANTA -- As reports of a unique form of swine flu erupt around the world, the inevitable question arises: Is this the big one'

Is this the next big global flu epidemic that public health experts have long anticipated and worried about' Is this the novel virus that will kill millions around the world, as pandemics did in 1918, 1957 and 1968'

The short answer is it's too soon to tell ...

International concern magnified as health officials across the world on Sunday [4-26-09] said they were investigating suspected cases in people who traveled to Mexico and come back with flu-like illnesses. Among the nations reporting confirmed cases or investigations were Canada, France, Israel and New Zealand ...

More severe cases are also likely, said Dr. Richard Besser, the CDC's acting director, in a Sunday news conference.

Besser also repeated what health officials have said since the beginning: they don't understand why the illnesses in Mexico have been more numerous and severe than in the United States ...

He also said comparison to past pandemics are difficult. "Every outbreak is unique," Besser said ... This virus seems to spread among people more easily than past swine flus that have sometimes jumped from pigs to people.

There's a historical cause for people to worry.

Flu pandemics have been occurring with some regularity since at least the 1500s, but the frame of reference for health officials is the catastrophe of 1918-19. That one killed an estimated 20 to 50 million people worldwide.

Disease testing and tracking were far less sophisticated then, but the virus appeared in humans and pigs at about the same time and it was known as both Spanish flu and swine flu. Experts since then have said the deadly germ actually originated in birds.

But pigs may have made it worse. That pandemic began with a wave of mild illness that hit in the spring of 1918, followed by a far deadlier wave in the fall which was most lethal to young, healthy adults. Scientists have speculated that something happened to the virus after the first wave -- one theory held that it infected pigs or other animals and mutated there -- before revisiting humans in a deadlier form ...

Flu shots have been offered in the United States since the 1940s, but new types of flu viruses have remained a threat. Global outbreaks occurred again in 1957 and 1968, though the main victims were the elderly and chronically ill.

In the last several years, experts have been focused on a form of bird flu that was first reported in Asia. It's a highly deadly strain that has killed more than 250 people worldwide since 2003. Health officials around the world have taken steps to prepare for the possibility of that becoming a global outbreak, but to date that virus has not gained the ability to spread easily from person to person.''



NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 4-28-09, by Lisa Roberson

``How Elyria's swine flu case was discovered

ELYRIA -- Listening to the radio as she drove to work Friday, a pediatric nurse practitioner at EMH Regional Medical Center heard all about the worldwide threat of swine flu, not knowing that a few hours later her new-found knowledge would be put to the test.

Ohio's first confirmed case of swine flu -- the virus that has been fatal in Mexico and is sparking talks of a full-blown pandemic around the world -- is a 9-year-old Ely School student. The student, who has not been identified, is at home and responding well to treatment ...

At the center of [the story], is an EMH employee who was astute enough to connect the dots once the boy's mom said the family had recently visited family in Mexico.

"Really, it seemed like a logical conclusion to jump to because he had been to Mexico and had flu-like symptoms," said Sally Fenik, a pediatric nurse practitioner at EMH's Kids Care Express Clinic.

Fenik recalled the day she saw the third-grader as a typical Friday. She headed to work at the after-hours clinic, listening to CNN radio as she drove to Elyria. The topic was the swine flu and its confirmation in other U.S. states. Fenik said she hoped the virus was not headed to Ohio ...

Once arriving at work, Fenik said she immediately got busy seeing young patients. The fifth patient of her shift was the Elyria boy, who came in with his mother around 5:30 p.m. He was visibly ill but did not look like any other little boy suffering from the flu that Fenik had seen all winter, she said ...

The boy had started complaining of a sore throat and was suffering from a cough and moderate fever on Wednesday [4-22-09], Fenik said. By the time the boy was brought to the hospital on Friday, Fenik said, his symptoms also included headache, body aches and dizziness.

"But based on his symptoms, he could have very well had strep throat," Fenik said. "So, I did the rapid strep test and hoped that was what he had."

When the rapid strep test came back negative, Fenik said she began asking the mother more questions. That is when she learned the family had recently returned from a two-week vacation in Mexico. While in Mexico, the family had visited numerous relatives, been to a few small villages, a farm and even a fair, Fenik said.

Keeping in mind what she just heard on the radio hours earlier, Fenik said she asked the woman if any of the family members were sick. The mother told Fenik she had heard there was a flu going around Mexico, but none of her relatives were sick during the visit or had complained to her that they had gotten sick after the family left.

Still, Fenik said she couldn't shake the nagging feeling that the boy actually had swine flu. Hoping to garner more information and possibly a little support for her theory, Fenik said she called the hospital's Microbiology Department. The first person she talked to had never heard of swine flu. But the second, Larry Esper, a medical technician, already was aware of what swine flu was and was doing his own research on the virus.

"Once I told Larry the symptoms and that the little boy had been to Mexico, he agreed with me that we might have a case of swine flu on our hands," Fenik said. "He told me exactly how to do the nasal swab, and when the test came back positive for Influenza A -- the strain of virus linked to swine flu -- he alerted the Ohio Department of Health."

Notifying the state heath department started a chain reaction of events that included having the 9-year-old boy's nasal swab sample immediately driven to Columbus for further testing, said ODH spokeswoman Sara Mormon.

By Saturday evening, the sample was flown to the Centers for Disease Control's headquarters in Atlanta, where tests were completed, confirming swine flu.

On Sunday [4-26-09], Fenik said, she was notified the case was a confirmed case. By then, she had already prescribed the antiviral drug Tamiflu to the Elyria boy, and he was responding well to the treatment. He reportedly has a mild case of the disease ...

"I have to commend the mom for bringing him in when she did," Fenik said. "He was a perfect fit for Tamiflu because it's best when given within 48 hours of developing symptoms ..."

Contact Lisa Roberson at lroberson@chroniclet.com

Commentator 1 on April 28, 2009:

So what would have happened if she hadn't been listening to the radio on the way to work' I would have thought the health officials would be all over this, but it sure doesn't sound like it. Great job Sally Fenik!''

See also www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net/GMO/Tamiflu/tamiflu.html

The Latest News

Bug War -- Top -- Home -- What's New