Swine Flu and A Texas Doctor's Email
I received an email in my box this morning and spent some time tracking down the story, and follow up information so that there is no confusion about what is happening with this situation concerning a Texas doctor’s email.
Dr. Marcus Gitterle sent out an email earlier last week to friends and family and it hit the internet in a big way. Dr. Gitterle’s email seems to have been edited by another party and sent out, which was originally posted here, and later scrubbed.
What follows is his response, and then his interview with a Texas news station to clarify his email statements. He was not putting this email out for public consumption, but people forget how incredibly powerful the internet actually is. I am putting this information up, because we do NOT need more rumors than we have going on right now.
Here is Dr. Gitterle’s post from his site:
When a private email, intended only for close friends and family, “went viral,” the consequences were serious for me and my family. Most significantly, those who edited my email, adding personal contact information and my full name, as well as adding suggestions that “my patients should call me,” have caused a hardship for my busy hospital, my wonderful employer (whom I feel to be the best, most quality oriented Emergency Medicine group in the world), and for me, as a busy ER doctor trying to take care of very sick people (sick with very common things, like heart problems and strokes). I would be justified by responding in anger, but I will not. I think my original message was widely copied because it was simple, brief and to the point, and it was written from the perspective of an ER doctor who is also a husband, and father.
Had I been writing for a wider audience, I would have provided a lot more perspective, to prevent misunderstandings, such as the incorrect notion that I felt anyone (officially or in the media) was intentionally obfuscating things. I didn’t and I don’t. I simply know for a fact that this is an emotion laden subject, and it is frankly a bit hard for professionals, let alone lay-persons, to understand the terms and distinctions involved, so important misunderstanding, I felt, were occuring. I don’t think it inappropriate to provide that perspective to friends. In the future, if I send such a message to friends and family, I will certainly be careful to enjoin folks against forwarding it, if it could be a source of controversy or misunderstanding.
In the midst of the hundreds of calls, blog entries and emails about “the email,” what stands out is the outpouring of support from so many regular folks, as well as from colleagues — often in far-flung places — who sympathize with what has gone on this week for me and my family. I am touched, and appreciative. I would also like to thank my very good friend, Joe Vitale (blog.mrfire.com). He put things in perspective, and helped me see the blessing in all this, and be thankful that my message, though not intended for public consumption, was found to be of help by him and others (he had been a recipient of the original email). Finally, though Alex Jones did not ask me before reading my email, I know he is a journalist, and he thought it was relevent to his audience; I bear him no animosity (though a call or email before reading it on the air would have been nice :-).
Ironically, I had planned to register this domain weeks ago to blog about confusing health issues, from a perspective that neither oversimplifies, nor gets lost in minutiae. I never thought I would put it to use under circumstances like this. In an effort to continue that theme of clarifying complex health topics from a practical perspective, and to be topical with respect to current events, I will be reposting some information on the use of nutritional supplements to bolster the immune system, as soon as time permits. There is a lot of hype surrounding this subject, while some of the well-tested “evidence based,” valid information gets lost in all the marketing noise. And, I will try to post anything I feel is objective, rational information that might help us, as citizens, to partner with public officials in minimizing the impact of the pandemic.
I implore everyone to refrain from attempting to contact me by phone. If you would like to email me, I have posted my email address below. I am not seeing patients outside the ER at this time. I wish I could offer specific and direct help and advice to every concerned person, but there are probably 10,000 people right now who want that direct advice, and only one of me.
Again, any contact needs to be via email.
Here is the followup story from KSAT 12 News (updated May 1, 2009):
Gitterle backtracked from his earlier e-mail with a post on his blog Thursday. The post read: “Finally, I want to clarify that I did not, and do not feel that the media is intentionally misleading anyone; rather, I think that this is a confusing, rapidly evolving situation, and it is easy for even trained professionals to become confused about the subtle distinctions between microbiologic confirmation and clinical diagnosis. I applaud the judicious, thoughtful reporting I have been seeing. I think the media has been by and large very responsible and helpful throughout this epidemic. Likewise, the Health Department and CDC are not misleading anyone, I think that again, the same technical communication issues apply.
“Update, 8:12 p.m.: The following is a statement from Gitterle sent to KSAT 12 News: When I sent out an email to close friends and family a couple of days ago, I had no idea it would be edited, twisted and sent around the world. Unfortunately, it has. I intended only to help my close friends and family understand the seriousness of this epidemic. I was not making an official public health statement. To set the record straight, I cannot speak more highly of Comal County Judge, Danny Scheele, Comal County School officials, Dr. Overman, and the tireless staff of our County Health Department. They acted with great professionalism and temerity, in choosing to close schools for 10 days, and I believe it is already having an effect on the spread of the virus. Likewise, hospitals in the region, including my own, have been doing incredible work in managing the patient care mission created by this epidemic. Administrators in my hospital system are truly rising to the occasion, and I am proud of their work. I also think that at the national level, excellent decisions have been made to support the fight against this virus. One of those excellent decisions was to make certain that ample supplies of appropriate medication are available to manage an epidemic such as this. Finally, the media is responding with some really excellent reporting on a complex, emotion-laden subject, without fanning the counterproductive flames of fear and paranoia. If there is a message I would like to convey, it is to take this flu seriously, and stay safe. How? By supporting the decisions of our public officials, and paying close attention to CDC and Health Department announcements and guidelines. If we do that, we can win this battle.
Okay…there are the facts; personally, I am sticking with what I am finding in my research on the 1918 Spanish Flu; this wave – not so bad…the next wave once it goes back and forth between humans and animals a few times; not so good. I also am not believing a word that the CDC, WHO or MSM are telling us until I talk to people in those states and areas of the world. Firsthand knowledge, at this point, is better than anything. For those of you wondering about Part 3 of 1918 Spanish Flu vs. Mexican Flu; I should have it up tonight or early tomorrow morning. I am trying to weave the thread of Roche into what I am finding. Many mahalos for your patience.