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Day 48: Plasmapheresis: The Great Red Hope?

DESPERATE MEASURES: FLU ANTIBODIES MAY BE OVERRATEDPublic health partisans have flayed me all day for admitting I’m not dying to get vaccinated against H5N1, even though I haven’t told anyone else what to do. Antivaxers are screaming because I didn’t tell people not to get vaccinated. Of course I know about the mercury in flu shots; people should worry more about all the other ways we consume mercury, starting with fish and coal burning.

Folks, you can all take those threats and shovel ‘em where the sun don’t shine. I’m a free man in a free Village.

My partner disagrees. He says I work for him in a corrupt society and that the antivaxers are right. What shall I do?

Hey, I’ve got it! Let’s call him ‘Fitch’—as in Ezra. H. Fitch, David T. Abercrombie’s associate.

Then we’ll discuss a slightly more natural way to gain immunity to H5N1. I’ve been wondering if any recent flu victims were given transfusions. People are mobbing hospitals for procedures they wanted to undergo in April. What if the blood supply is awash with H5N1?

In 1984 a baby who had received blood in San Francisco came down with AIDS. Even though a local blood donor was known to have died from the mysterious condition, authorities paid no attention. Doctors who warned that the blood supply might be tainted were denounced as alarmists. HIV entered the nation’s blood reserve and 35,000 Americans were transfused with it.

No one panicked. The CDC’s budget was reduced. Federal AIDS researchers were told to cut back on spending for laboratory equipment and conference travel. In 1984, you see, they expected a vaccine within two years for whatever caused AIDS. They didn’t feel like fussing over short-term details.

There’s still no vaccine for HIV/AIDS. But some scientists think blood extracted from avian flu survivors may contain useful antibodies that could help sick patients recover. A few studies from the 1918 pandemic imply that plasmapheresis—also known as therapeutic plasma exchange—might work. I wonder how long it will take survivors to auction their blood on eBay? (I can’t imagine a dumber, riskier purchase than buying injectables from an online stranger.)

Some hospitals claim outstanding results. Others say the difference is marginal. China keeps trying plasmapheresis. Exposure is not reported to have killed anyone.

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