Swine flu was the topic of the year for 2009

Flu stories were big all year, especially after the H1N1 "swine" flu showed up, on one side or the other of the U.S.-Mexico border, early in the spring.

Over at ZDNet Open Source I have learned it is easy to get a rise out of people by simply writing something (anything) about Microsoft.

Here at ZDNet Healthcare, the equivalent word was flu.

Flu stories were big all year, especially after the H1N1 "swine" flu showed up, on one side or the other of the U.S.-Mexico border, early in the spring.

The topic turned out to be a constant source of interest, and three stories about it made our Top 25 list. Here they are:

The cause of swine flu --The title was something of a pun. It refers to two meanings of the word cause, cause as in the reason for something, and cause as in a political issue.

It wound up being the third most-popular story of the year, with over 10,000 page views and 45 talkbacks.

"The cause of swine flu will become a cause all its own," is the way I began it, and I have seldom written truer words. The bug now known as H1N1 became an intense political issue, with people alternately demanding action and insisting that vaccines, the most natural action, were an overreaction.

I illustrated the piece with a photo of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, because factory hog farms were believed by many to be the origin point for the disease. As of this writing, whether they were or not is unclear. I do wish I were not so fond of bacon.

Flu turns dangerous --By July, when this piece was written, the H1N1 bug was being compared with the 1918 flu epidemic. And panic was at a fever pitch. So I deliberately used a photo of my pharmacist, Ira Katz, who always makes me feel better. This was the 18th most-read item on the blog during 2009.

I noted a few facts that have since borne out, like the fact this strain seems to hit young people hardest, and described the government's response at its height, when hard data and vaccine were both hardest to come by.

JAMA studies push the need for H1N1 flu shot --By the time I wrote this piece in October vaccine supplies were coming in, but resistance to using them was on the rise, as was panic among those having trouble getting it. It wound up as the 20th most popular piece on this blog for 2009.

JAMA stands for the Journal of the American Medical Association, and the news was a series of studies about H1N1 placed on its Web site, in front of the registration firewall. The stories urged that those who could get the flu shot get it.

By this point I was getting an enormous pushback from vaccine skeptics, and many of the 27 talkbacks below this story are from such skeptics. Anticipating this I illustrated the piece with a picture of W.C. Fields, who famously called death "the fellow in the brite nightgown."

Full disclosure is required, however. The real reason for using the picture is that I'm a hard-core Donald Fagan fan. Brite Nightgown was the best single on his 2006 Morph the Cat CD, in my opinion.  And if I turned a few of you on to it, I have done my job.

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