Media Taking Eyes Off Pandemic Threat?

This is a rush transcript from "Glenn Beck," July 29, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GLENN BECK, HOST: Now, H1N1, swine flu, growing pandemic — hardly anybody is talking about it anymore, so why am I? Well, let me refresh your memory.

Back in early — I think it was early May, late April, it represented about 1/3 of all of the news stories on television. But since May 11, it hasn't been in the top five at once. And it's bothering me because I'm like, wait a minute, they're saying it's getting worse and worse, and yet nobody is paying attention.

Why shouldn't the media take its eyes off a flu pandemic?


BECK (voice-over): The great influenza in a nutshell.

Although most history textbooks take you directly to 1918, the deadly pandemic actually started two to three years earlier. In December
1915 and January 1916, epidemic influenza hit 22 states, but it was described as a mild illness. By December 1917, the disease, which was still mild, spread throughout Camp Kearney, California and other Army camps. One hundred fifteen thousand people died.

Through mid-spring and early summer, the mild epidemic gained strength as it passed through Western Europe, China, India and the Philippine Islands, also Brazil. By summer's end, the flu struck Greece, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain and the West Indies, eventually, even the Arctic.

During the first wave of 1918, which began early March, the epidemic resembled typical flu epidemics, affecting mostly the sick and elderly, and younger and healthier people recovered easily.

But in August, when the second wave began in France, Sierra Leone and the United States, the virus has mutated into a much deadlier form. When the pandemic officially ended in 1920, up to 100 million people had died worldwide and another 400 million people had gotten sick. It's been called the greatest medical holocaust in history, comparable to the Black Death.

And that's the great influenza in a nutshell.


BECK: OK. Here's why I'm talking about this because there's been a couple of things.

First of all, I notice in the paper that they are not tracking it at the WHO anymore and I thought, wow, that's weird. That's either really good or really bad.

The second thing is, they're not even — they're not even asking, the doctor will say, "Should I be tested for swine flu," "No, don't worry about it." What? It's getting worse.

And the third thing is, have you heard of chickenpox parties? That's where you get your kids together? Because I know the history that I just shared with you of the influenza in 1918, I've considered a chicken-pox party. I've considered — you know, do you have the swine flu, could you cough on me?

Our government has gotten the first 20 million of 200 million doses of the vaccine against this pandemic, swine flu, and it should be ready to start immunizations in October. But do you get them? Most experts agree that people are likely to need two doses of this vaccine to get full immunity, because so few people have been exposed to this kind of virus over the years.

So, in other words, the U.S. needs 600 million doses and there isn't a chance we're getting that.

John Barry, author of "The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History," which is a fantastic book.

John, I just so appreciate your work and everything that you are doing on this particular flu. This is — I have a couple of questions for you. This is massive. The WHO is saying that this is spreading like wildfire, it's getting worse and worse and worse as far as a pandemic. But has it mutated yet? Is it getting any more virulent?

? Video: Watch Beck's interview

JOHN BARRY, AUTHOR, "THE GREAT INFLUENZA": First, good to see you again.

BECK: Good to see you, sir.

BARRY: At this point, it still has about the same virulence as seasonal flu. The problem with — and we are monitoring it. The scientists are looking at the molecular biology constantly. The reason they stopped the case counts was because it burdens the laboratories and it really doesn't tell us that much. We already know it's all over the world.

BECK: OK. So, I'm glad to hear that. Is it — and I know you wouldn't say and — I mean, I wouldn't either. I'm just asking for personal choice. If I had a choice of somebody who had the swine flu today, because I've read your book, because I know the history of 1918 — if I had a choice and somebody had the swine flu, I would have them cough on me and take my choices to get it now so I would hope that I could be immune from it if this thing ever changes.

Is that wise, stupid? How do you feel about that?

BARRY: That's actually a pretty tough call. You know, there is no reason now to think that this virus is going to become virulent the way the 1918 virus did. You know, but there is no way of making a prediction.

You know, if it were to remain the way it is right now, then there would be no reason to do that. I mean, the reality is, you could get sick and with a very mild case, but you don't know who you are going to expose.

BECK: Right.

BARRY: I mean, you might be standing in line next to a pregnant women and pregnant women are, in fact, fairly vulnerable.

BECK: Let me ask you this, because I'm out of time now, but somebody also told me that Tamiflu looks like it may — in the next mutation of this — that it may be resistant to Tamiflu. Is that true?

BARRY: Well, I mean it's possible, but there are only four cases — individual cases in the world — that have noticed, you know, so far that have shown resistance. So, it's certainly possible but there's — it also quite likely that the virus will remain susceptible to Tamiflu.

BECK: Odds that you think this turns into 1918?

BARRY: I think it's fortunately very small at this point.

BECK: Great. I'm glad to hear that.

BARRY: You know, it's a real — it is a real concern.

BECK: OK. Thanks, John. I appreciate it.

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