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The first of my posts on why I believe human interference is largely to blame for the disappearance of positive flu tests.
I’ve long been perplexed by the alleged disappearance of influenza. For readers who aren’t aware, positive flu tests abruptly went away at the end of the 2019-2020 season. The vanishing act was observed in most (but not all) of the 127 countries that participate in the WHO flu surveillance program. Near-zero detection continued into the following season, with positives making a comeback during the 2021-2022 season.
The party-line among U.S. officials and “experts” back in 2020 was that non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) like school closures, masks, and social distancing were suppressing flu and other respiratory viruses. To my ears, NPIs stopping flu but not SARS-CoV-2 sounded like a self-aggrandizing public health fairy tale. For that reason, I initially subscribed to the hypothesis that viral interference or “competition” was to blame.
Yet viral interference wasn’t a wholly-satisfying explanation. My brain itched. I’d been tracking Chicago’s comprehensive flu data closely and was baffled by what I saw week to week. ZERO positive specimens out of 10,000 tests? NO false positives? Covid was suddenly everywhere but flu suddenly nowhere? It defied logic.
Explanations from Viral Interferists are earnest and thorough, but don’t scratch the itch for me. I’ve reviewed the relevant literature on viruses competing for or in a human host. My novice summary? “It’s possible and seems like it happens, but we really don’t know.” (Granted, I may not have the training necessary to grasp the biological intricacies or proposed mechanics. I refer readers to Martin Neil and colleagues, who provide a good analysis of related research.)
Something else I’ve concluded is that interactions between pathogens are not as well understood as some scientists and medical doctors would like to believe. Viral transmission dynamics, likewise, are debatable and face the age-old problem of being impossible to observe in the real world. The more I learn about viruses, the more I realize that what is unknown and unproven exceeds that which is known and proven.
The more I learn about viruses, the more I realize that what is unknown and unproven exceeds that which is known and proven.
Some people who subscribe to NPI and/or VI Theory claim that skeptics like me are essentially saying countries conspired in a back room to get rid of or re-label flu. That’s not what I’m saying, but a bunch of nations taking similar actions in anticipation of, or in response to, an alleged threat isn’t far-fetched, extraordinary, or unprecedented.
Conformity has been a staple of the WHO global flu surveillance program for decades. “Watching” and trying to control flu was the modus operandi of the entity even in its early days. Participating countries - especially those most invested - do not simply do “that which is right in their own eyes.” They collect and report variables in accordance with guidelines and directives. I imagine some countries play a larger role in developing those rules than others.
As for uniformity, I’m hard-pressed to conjure anything more synchronized and extensive from nations around the globe than the response to the WHO declaring an emergency and pandemic with SARS-CoV-2. Coordinated responses are the organization’s raison d’etre, as their website makes perfectly clear: “Global health threats require a global response.”
No conspiracy theory per se is needed to concede that many systems were already in place and are not hard to mobilize or leverage. After years of hearing WHO and public health experts portending (hoping for?) The Next Pandemic, it would be more surprising if we didn’t see many countries fall in line when the words “novel virus in Wuhan” were uttered.
I humbly submit that it takes more faith to believe the sudden launch of well-funded testing regime had no impact on the motives to find viruses that weren’t nearly as scary to the public, or nearly as profitable for Pandemicists.
My Working Hypothesis
I’ve done enough research to hypothesize that human interference is largely, if not solely, responsible for influenza taking a vacation from detection.
When I say “human interference,” I do not mean things that hubristic government officials and public health initially compelled or told people to do pre-“vaccine,” in the name of slowing the spread of a newly-named virus. I also don’t mean the kind of interference involved in theories about an infectious clone or reconstructed 1918 flu virus release.
I’m referring to things that were done, documented decisions that were made, and guidance or advice that was given which most officials either did not or still do not attribute as significant forces involved in the sudden drop and subsequent dissipation of flu tests returning positive.
My approach to investigating why flu was interrupted is similar to how I confront New York City’s spring 2020 mass-casualty event. I keep asking a) what was the sequence/chronology of events leading up to and following the observed phenomenon? and b) what do contemporaneous data and documents suggest actually occurred (versus what could have occurred)?
I believe it’s critical to identify and explain all non-natural forces before contemplating any role natural phenomena may have played. NPI theory tries to do that, but doesn’t account for differences in NPIs among countries that all saw flu positives take a hiatus. Moreover, I’m not convinced that humans can control the community circulation of seasonal respiratory agents, whether natural or lab-adulterated. We do control the testing, reporting, and “treatments” of such agents - which is why those mechanisms should be targeted for investigation.
It’s critical to identify and explain all non-natural forces before contemplating any role natural phenomena may have played.
Rationale for U.S. Focus
Although I’m apprised of patterns in other countries, I’ve focused my flu inquiries on the U.S. for practical reasons.
I live in the U.S. and experienced the disappearance here, in real-time, as the data were reported, while authorities were making statements and answering questions about it.
Unlike smaller nations, the U.S. has numerous jurisdictions that produce weekly surveillance reports during flu season. Besides the CDC, there is state and county- or city-level reporting. Those entities “feed” each other to an extent, but I’ve also seen some interesting (and informative) differences between them.
English-language reports from other countries sometimes use terms that aren’t familiar to me and make it difficult to discern what is being reported.
Country-level data can hide important details at the city or regional level. I’m not motivated to chase after reports within each country, unless I have a specific reason to do so.
Right now, I believe what happened in the U.S. is indicative of what happened in other countries that couldn’t seem to find flu. I hope other people will delve deeply into the reports and data where they live, and alert me to things I need to account for or explore. There is merit in surveying the forest, as well as studying individual trees. The strongest investigative efforts do both.
Does it Matter?
Does it matter if influenza actually went on a holiday, versus appearing to do so?
In my opinion, yes, for at least three reasons:
Thus far, U.S. health officials and agencies have explained flu’s absence as primarily due to NPIs, changes to healthcare-seeking behavior, and possibly viral interference. If other decisions and changes were made that had an equal or greater impact on flu detection but have not been acknowledged - let alone fully disclosed and explained - then there is certainly no reason to trust anything that’s been reported about SARS-CoV-2 or other respiratory agents.
NPI/Viral Interference theories imply that SARS-CoV-2 was very powerful and dominant. So much so that it extinguished influenza during weeks when flu tests were returning at a fairly high percent positivity and kept it away for an entire season thereafter. Human Interference Theory (as I have defined it) allows for the opposite: SARS-CoV-2 was an unremarkable pathogen that could have been circulating for many months, if not years, in the U.S. and elsewhere. The disappearance of flu could have been staged, but it also could have been an unintended side effect that had to be covered up or diminished in order to justify the spring/summer 2020 excess mortality which was being attributed to Covid (i.e., PCR-positive tests for SARS-CoV-2). These are other possibilities, of course, but NPI/VI theories tend to dismiss or disallow any malfeasance of any kind. Given that lies and half-truths from authorities have been the rule rather than the exception in this *pandemic* saga, exempting the flu mystery from potential shenanigans seems unwarranted and premature.
NPI/Viral Interference theories imply that SARS-CoV-2 was circulating for weeks or months at a level that didn’t impact mortality, before suddenly gaining enough steam to create excess mortality and defeat flu. (Martin Neil’s “boxing match metaphor” for such assertions is apt.) Human Interference Theory permits the null hypothesis: SARS-CoV-2 was not a novel virus in 2020. It didn’t present additive mortality risk to any age group, nor did it displace other respiratory agents like influenza in a span of four weeks.
Like New York City’s mass casualty event, I believe the temporary failure to detect flu is key to understanding and exposing how the world went crazy over a cold.
Because lies and half-truths from authorities have been the rule rather than the exception in the *pandemic* saga, exempting the flu mystery from potential shenanigans is unwarranted and premature.
I anticipate posting at least three more articles on “Flu Interrupted,” with the data and public records I’ve obtained thus far. Until then, you can read my thread about the end of the 2019-2020 flu season, which I contend was artificially disrupted by the naming, testing, and financial fuel for SARS-CoV-2.
UPDATE, 6/11/23: Mike provided a link to a document showing January 2020 revisions to WHO guidelines for “the molecular detection of influenza viruses.” This document is new to me, but speaks to my point about global surveillance being a controlled effort, subject to updated directives that prompt uniform or and or sudden changes. The technical aspects of the changes warrant review and commentary from those with relevant expertise. The “strong recommendation” at the top catches my eye. The document includes cycle threshold guidance and other specifics about testing protocols for flu types and strains. The next and last update was February 2021 during the season in which flu had “disappeared.” Versions of the document are listed on the WHO website. The links are broken, but the documents are accessible via Wayback Machine.
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