As The Swine Flu Turns
Let's move from Specter, donkeys and elephants, over to swine flu. We're up to 68 cases in the United States and 98 cases outside of Mexico in the rest of the world. We've seen hospitalization here but not as virulent a sickness as in Mexico, where reports show up to 150 dead. The expert at the WHO said yesterday that the spread of the virus cannot be contained, and now we need to work on mitigating its worst effects. And considering that we're starting to see new cases in new countries, that seems correct.
While the WHO has raised the global pandemic alert, they're also keying in on the source of the outbreak.
In Mexico, where the only related deaths have been reported, state health authorities looking for the initial source of the outbreak toured a million-pig hog farm in Perote, in Veracruz State. The plant is half-owned by Smithfield Foods, an American company and the world’s largest pork producer.
Mexico’s first known swine flu case, which was later confirmed, was from Perote, according to Health Minister José Ángel Córdova. The case involved a 5-year-old boy who recovered.
But a spokesman for the plant said the boy was not related to a plant worker, that none of its workers were sick and that its hogs were vaccinated against flu.
Tom Philpott has been all over this since Friday. The Smithfield farms in Perote are thought to have infected the water supply and the atmosphere. Drinking pig shit will tend to do that. Can we finally have this debate about factory farming?
The latest news is that the LA County Coroner is investigating two deaths that may have resulted from swine flu. Obviously this is concerning, but at the same time, the large majority of strains here have been less virulent, and we have no confirmation on this case in LA.
...It's amusing to hear media types talking about how people should stay home from work if they're sick when nearly half of private-sector workers don't have paid sick days. I'm one of them. As a freelancer, I only get paid if I come to work. So if you want to keep America prepared in the event of an outbreak, you have to set up ways for Americans to be able to stay home from work without threatening their financial livelihood. Not to mention the 47 million without health insurance. This highlights the need for a bigger public health safety net.
...John Barry, author of a great book about the deadly 1918 influenza that killed 670,000 in the United States, has a good piece about where the swine flu will strike next.