The Swine Flu (or at least the story of the swine flu) has taken the world by storm over the last few weeks. Patient zero is a young boy in Mexico who lives near an enormous pig farm that has been stinking up the neighbourhood for decades. He had a fever, sore throat, other respiratory problems and some stomach aches. Fast forward about a month, and the entire world is (over)reacting. Egypt is culling all of its hogs. The World Health Organization has declared a level 5 emergency (the step before proclaiming a widespread pandemic – preparing to proclaim a widespread panic). Airports have installed sensors to detect the temperature of passengers deboarding. Mexico has begun a massive vaccination program. Every sniffle, cough and wet fart from Cancun to Churchill is being reported to doctors. Swine flu is EVERYWHERE!
An interesting footnote (that could become a headline if someone officially looks into it) to the story is that of the relationship of Donald Rumsfeld and the pharma giant Gilead. A long time board member and chairman of the board, Rumsfeld was at the helm when the flu virus vaccine Tamiflu was sold to Swiss pharma giant Roche. Coincidentally, the Avian Flu scare was at it’s peak hype at the time, and the US government (sparked by George Bush’s declaration that anywhere from 200,000 to 2 million people could die) purchased over $1 billion dollars of the stuff. Amazingly, H1N1 is a combination of Avian and swine flu. Wonder how they mixed up??
Rumsfeld declines to comment when asked if he still owns stock in the company.
There are four influenza antiviral drugs approved for use in the United States (oseltamivir, zanamivir, amantadine and rimantadine). The swine influenza A (H1N1) viruses that have been detected in humans in the United States and Mexico are resistant to amantadine and rimantadine so these drugs will not work against these swine influenza viruses. Laboratory testing on the swine influenza A (H1N1) viruses so far indicate that they are susceptible (sensitive) to oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu) and zanamivir (brand name Relenza).
Are We Overreacting?
The WHO has confirmed 22 deaths in Mexico are a result of the H1N1 strain.
According to the CDC as of May 3, 2009, 30 States have cases of H1N1. There are 226 laboratory confirmed cases, and 1 death (Texas).”Virtually all of the United States probably has this virus circulating now,” Dr Anne Schuchat (an expert from America’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) said. “That doesn’t mean that everybody’s infected, but within the communities, the virus has arrived.”
She said she expected cases to become more severe and to lead to deaths. She stressed that this in itself would not be unusual as every year 36,000 people die in the US after contracting seasonal flu.
People have died. I certainly don’t want to minimize the personal tragedies they have had to undergo. But to assume that we have a worldwide pandemic on our hands is, at this point anyways, ridiculous. Maybe we’re just being encouraged to support a multi-billion dollar industry. After all, oil isn’t worth what it used to be…