Monday, May 04, 2009

Swine Flu Follies

First, this cartoon at Protein Wisdom is hillarious. For Flu-omic relief, go see it.

Second, while Obama and Health departments around the country are closing schools to prevent the spread of Swine Flu (And the CDC), we're being told by the same people that closing the border with Mexico won't help reduce the spread of the flu. Anyone else understand the cognitive dissonance of those two pronouncements?

Third, Howard Markel and Alexandra Minna Stern in an opinion column for the Detroit News worry with much handwringing that Mexico and Mexicans will be blamed for the Mexican (oops sorry Markel and Stern, Swine - oops sorry, the Pig Growers Association just protested) H1N1 flu.

They say that closing the border would be counterproductive. While giving a history of various prejudicial and scapegoating acts against various victims throughout history for both incidences of disease and economic downturns, they never stop and explain why closing the border would be "counterproductive".

They claim its a matter of blaming the victim, but leap to that conclusion without any real substantiation, and then claim such blaming of the victim is alleged to have happend - real proof there. Once would think that the authors
Howard Markel is director and Alexandra Minna Stern is associate director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Both are historical consultants on pandemic preparedness planning for the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, which is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
would use the scientific method rather than emotion in their analysis.

During an epidemic outbreak it makes sense to quarantine and slow the spread of people from affected areas while flooding those areas with medical assistance and scientists to try and understand and fight the virus. It does not make sense to keep in place rapid transport and movement from the affected area as that can increase the spread of the disease.

Enough silly handwringing, after all its "unproductive". I haven't heard of anyone blaming Mexicans qua Mexicans for the flu (there was appropriate distaste previously towards the Chinese government for covering up the outbreak of SARS, but that's a whole different matter.) and indeed many are heartened by the fact the Mexican government seems to be taking good steps to fight the virus outbreak (including I might add the use of quarantine and preventing the congregation of people in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus).

While H1N1 is hopefully and likely just a minor flu outbreak, public health officials do need to have some kind of plan for quarantine and indeed for sealing a border if necessary when a real dangerous outbreak occurs.

Viruses don't understand and are not deterred by political correctness, and such hand-wringing assists them in their spread.

1 comment:

Expatriate Owl said...

Query: If the schools are all closed, what are the kids more likely to do?

A) Stay at home watching the lobotomy box (and having no contact with anyone outside the family, other than the UPS guy/gal)?

B) Congregate at the house of one of their social group, and having contact with people with whom they would be in contact if they were all at school?


C) Go to the shopping mall, and thus have contact (unsupervised by adults) with students from not only their own school, but other schools as well?

And in which of the foregoing scenarios is the Chazer Flu more likely to be spread?

[For the uninitiated, "Chazer" (with the "ch" pronounced as in the Scottish "Loch") is Hebrew/Yiddish for pig.]