One senior physician at Pediatric Village is refusing to recommend H1N1 shots or nasal spray to any of her patients. She is one of a small cadre of outliers who remain skeptical about the government's unprecedented immunization campaign, citing doubts about the risks presented by the H1N1 virus or the safety of the vaccine.
"My feeling is that this is all being over-hyped," said Laurence J. Murphy, a pediatrician in Burke who also will not inoculate his patients. "Most people who get this virus do beautifully. I believe the vaccine hasn't been tested enough. I just think the benefit of it at this point is not outweighed by the possible risk."
Murphy said he has no reason to think the vaccine is unsafe -- he, like many of the skeptics, said he generally supports vaccinations. But he wonders whether it was tested enough.
"They just didn't have the time to do that properly. They mean well and they are not doing anything to mislead people in any direct way. The reality is no one knows. I'm not pretending to know. I don't think they should pretend to know," he said.
"What bothers me is pretty much every doctor in the country is jumping on the bandwagon and saying, 'This vaccine is completely safe' -- even for the pregnant woman and the unborn baby," said Bob Sears, of Orange County, Calif. "But they can't give you a single study that backs up that statement."
Scientists working to understand the genetic makeup of the H1N1 virus that causes the disease have linked it to a virus behind a 1998 swine flu outbreak at an industrial hog farm in Sampson County, North Carolina's leading hog producer. A virus related to the current outbreak was first identified a decade ago at a farm in the eastern North Carolina County.
The 1998 North Carolina outbreak began with pregnant sows developing high fevers. A state microbiologist who tested nasal samples taken from the animals was surprised to encounter a virus he didn't recognize -- and his alarm grew when he found that some of the sick animals had been immunized for ordinary swine flu.
The H1N1 virus behind the current flu outbreak contains genetic material from birds, humans and pigs, though it's called "swine flu" because it's a type of virus that typically infects hogs.
If nothing else, the latest swine flu outbreak should spur governments to begin building a safer, more sustainable agricultural structure. And they must reach across national lines to do so, since neither agribusiness nor viruses are held back by borders.