Father of (The First) Swine Flu Scare Dies
The man who got everyone worked into a frenzy over swine flu in 1976 has died. And no, it wasn't of swine flu. Former CDC director Dr David Sencer died at age 86 of pneumonia earlier this month. I wasn't alive for the proudest moment of his distinguished career so let's get to it.
The swine-flu program had its beginnings in early 1976, when soldiers at Ft. Dix, N.J., were stricken with a flu strain thought to be similar to the one behind the 1918 flu pandemic—the deadliest in history.
Dr. Sencer, in consultation with the nation's top epidemiologists, feared the worst. He advised that the entire nation be vaccinated. A Ford administration official pronounced the memo "a gun to our head," but the proposal was approved.
Over a two-week period in the fall of 1976, 40 million Americans were vaccinated. Complications arose when some 30 people died after being inoculated and several hundred more developed Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological disease with symptoms including paralysis.
Vaccinations were suspended, the epidemic never happened, and Congress voted to indemnify vaccine makers.
In case you need a refresher...
Gerald brought it home from the office and gave it to everybody. Well, no, Betty's mother is the one who gave it to everybody. Even killed her best friend! But before Dotty died, she gave it to everyone from the mailman to the paperboy. Oh the humanity!