Apr 27, 2009

Swine Flu: All Quiet on the Manitoban Front

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Left: Keeping epidemiological vigil in Manitoba

I hate to make light of a potentially deadly swine flu pandemic, but I did scratch my head and chuckle at this headline from the website of CJOB-68, Manitoba's Information Superstation. I suppose that with the rapidly growing number of swine flu cases, Manitobans have a legitimate interest like the rest of us to wonder about the appearance of the disease in their province.

Initially it seemed odd to me that folks living in this heavily rural region would be particularly concerned about swine flu. After all, with the exception of Winnipeg, Canada's fourth-largest city, Manitoba is relatively isolated from the global air and sea traffic that will likely be the hopping-off points for infected carriers of the virus.

"What next?" I laughed to myself. "News stories about swine flu in Nunavut and Greenland?"

But then I read that Manitoba has a billion-dollar pork industry that employs approximately 15,000 people, and the headline seemed a lot less funny. Those who work in the pork industry would of course be at much higher risk for swine flu, and they could become primary carriers of the disease to the surrounding cities and towns.

Sorry, Manitobans: you have every right to be worried about swine flu.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Buncha hysteria over the flu. Whoopteedoo!

microdot said...

Mike, I replied to your post on my blog with the email you gave, but it seems to have never gone through.
I was in Toledo for a few days, but alas, I am going back to France later today.
The funny thing, from descriptions of where you live and the park where you see ducks, behind the hospital area, I think I was only a few blocks away. Scary, huh?
I got a nice sunburn here, now I have to get back to France before the idiots close the borders because of this swine flu mania.

Question: Back in the early 80's, when the first clusters of AIDS infectins were being noted, what would have happened if Reagan had proclaimed a health alert.
AIDS remains a virulent real pandemic which has seriously affected the economies and social order all over the world.
Yet, we still only act "after the fact". In our perception it remains a disease of the poor, drug users and perverts, but by now, we all have had some friend, relative or loved one who has been touched by this pandemic.

historymike said...

Anonymous:

I think the hysteria might not be warranted, but the CDC and WHO are right to be concerned. Humans are overdue for a major flu pandemic, and this strain of influenza seems to have significant lethality. What is puzzling is how the cases in the U.S. seem to be so much milder - either the strain has weakened, there are unknown contributory environmental factors, or these are significantly different strains.

historymike said...

Microdot:

Must have been my stupid spam filter, which lets in all sorts of malicious emails but snags all the legitimate emails.

As far as Reagan: certainly the Reagan administration was slow to react to AIDS and HIV, and politics indeed played a role in the slow response - but the fact that the disease transmission has limitations also caused the CDC to under-react.

Airborne pathogens tend to more quickly catch the attention of epidemiologists, since historically these tend to the more virulent and rapidly spread (smallpox, influenza, measles, etc.).

However, the strains of HIV currently ripping through Africa and parts of Asia ought to be frightening to more Westerners. If these strains break out of sub-Saharan Africa and Thaliand into major US cities, there could be new pockets of this highly virulent disease.

And let's keep our fingers crossed that HIV never develops an airborne capability.

Mad Jack said...

And let's keep our fingers crossed that HIV never develops an airborne capability.Which would start a real panic, especially when you consider the incubation period and the visible symptoms. We'd be talking about a return of the black plague, I think.

I didn't know that new strains of HIV/AIDS exist. That's enough to keep you awake nights!