By Calvin Palmer
The threat of a “killer” virus should bring out calm-headed rational thinking but, alas, the human condition is prone to panic and has an in-built readiness to seize on gloom and doom thus creating more panic.
With the outbreak of Mexican flu, yes the World Health Organization has officially designated the hitherto swine flu as Mexican flu, or for those with a train-spotter’s mentality — 2009 H1N1 flu.
With its new official designation, Mexican flu joins the Mexican wave as Mexico’s only contribution to popular culture. Oh, I was forgetting about Salma Hayek.
The name change has come about after the latest research on swine flu shows that the virus does not come from pigs.
Personally, I think Napoleon and Squealer down on Animal Farm registered such a strong protest with world authorities, regarding swine flu being detrimental to the good name of the world’s pig population, WHO was forced, in these politically-correct times, to concede the name change.
Sadly it came too late to prevent the slaughter of Egypt’s 300,000 pigs as a precaution against swine flu.
I just hope not many Mexicans live in Cairo or Alexandria.
The Egyptian response is strange since WHO has no record of any person with swine flu having contracted it through French kissing a pig. Sarah Palin’s husband is reported to still be in good health, well physical health at least.
If Egyptian authorities did their homework they would find that the flu virus is spread by human contact. And people other than Mexicans have contracted the disease. So using their logic, shouldn’t Egyptian officials be out killing the entire population of Egypt to ensure the country remains free of 2009 H1N1 flu?
Britain, a nation at the cutting edge of scientific discovery, was quick to grasp that the flu virus was spread by human contact.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown assured the nation that his government was taking “the preparations that are necessary and the precautions to prevent the incidence of this disease in this country”.
Excuse me, Gordon, but Britain has already confirmed five cases of Mexican flu. Dammit man! You even announced the latest three cases to the House of Commons.
So how can you say “to prevent the incidence of this disease in this country”? Remember the adage – engage brain before opening mouth – Gordon.
Part of the British precautions include expanding anti-viral stocks from 35 million to 50 million, ordering extra face masks and sending out an information leaflet to all 25 million households in Britain.
The anti-viral stocks make sense. The masks do not. The leaflets do not.
Those leaflets will be delivered by hand. If the person delivering them is infected with the virus, which is spread by droplets that will easily cling to a paper surface, it will be transferred to whoever picks it up and reads it.
And because the virus is spread by droplets, it makes the use of face masks fairly redundant as a preventative measure.
As Dr John Crippen on NHS Blog Doctor writes: “There is not much evidence that masks are of great value in warding off that nasty swine flu.”
The masks may be useful in preventing someone who already has the virus from spreading it through coughs and sneezes, contaminating surfaces on which those virus-laden droplets may land.
But at the least the media will have a good pandemic. There is nothing quite like apocalyptic forecasts for spicing up TV news bulletins to grab the attention of viewers, or have people gravitating in droves to the Web sites of the world’s media.
And who cares if they exaggerate the situation and blow everything out of proportion? Remember how the bird flu a few years back was going to decimate the world’s population, according to every major media outlet on the planet.
If it did, it never made the news.
All the headlines this morning proclaiming the first U.S. death from the flu in Texas somehow forgot to mention the fact that the 23-month-old baby was Mexican, from Mexico City, and not a resident of the United States. Secondly, they also failed to mention that the baby already had underlying medical problems.
Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, sound bite or YouTube video clip.
WHO has raised its pandemic alert level to Phase 5, indicating a global pandemic could be imminent.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are 91 confirmed cases in ten states, with 51 in New York, 16 in Texas and 14 in California. Two cases have been confirmed in Kansas, Massachusetts and Michigan, while single cases have been reported in Arizona, Indiana, Nevada and Ohio.
Let’s look at the math, or maths as we correctly say in Britain, 91 cases in a country with a population of 304 million.
Get a grip!