The Spectator

Letters | 1 August 2009

Spectator readers respond to recent articles

Not every illness is swine flu

Sir: Congratulations to Sarah Standing (‘The national swine flu sickie’, 25 July). It seems incredible that so much money is being spent so recklessly when we have such an enormous debt on our national books. In these days of ‘patient-led’ medicine the public decides what it is suffering from and certificates are often available for the asking; no doubt the flu itself will be followed by epidemic ‘post-viral fatigue’.

GPs seem suddenly to have abandoned the god of ‘evidence-based’ medicine in favour of self-protection. I can say this because I am a GP of a certain vintage who rarely caught any disease from a patient. I must have seen 50 or more children with chickenpox or rubella and survived until my own children brought the infection to the house.

Swine flu has, it appears, always been with us so there are probably many in the community with antibodies. Perhaps a few of our vast army of researchers could test those living in the neighbourhood of pig farms.

But my main concern is with misdiagnoses. A high temperature together with symptoms such as diarrhoea and a cough occurs in a variety of diseases, some subject to sudden deterioration. Malaria and meningitis are two but streptococcal infection can be lethal in a short time and that is probably what happened to the child who died. I suspect the phrase ‘associated health issues’ may conceal such deaths. 

Anne Savage  
London NW3

Border dispute


Sir: I think Jan Morris’s assertion that ‘Nobody in all England lives more than 100 miles from a Welsh Border’ (‘The last permitted bigotry’, 25 July) might be doubted by the residents of Brighton, Norwich, and Newcastle upon Tyne, amongst others.

Tom Spencer
London SW12

Hacked off

Sir: In the absence of urgent political action, Gary McKinnon will be arrested, extradited, charged with hacking into Pentagon and NASA computers and destined to spend his life in a US prison.

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