Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Swine flu cases have now been confirmed in the Middle East, Spain, New Zealand, and Asia. This means that swine flu, which is believed to have originated in Mexico, has spread in less than a month to 3 separate continents and is officially "on" every landmass except Antarctica. Although for developed countries swine flu is laughably curable, and in fact not even a dangerous disease, the high death toll in Mexico shows that weaker immune systems typically associated with peoples in poorer countries are more dangerously effected. And so we find ourselves facing a pandemic.
I have two thoughts, and I have to keep them short because I am swamped here at work.
First, we need to use this less than awful disease to test and evaluate models for isolating and stopping the spread of pandemics. Here we have a gift: a disease that is easy to survive if given care and nutrition, but spreads vigorously from person to person. We can watch and learn how the typical spreading patterns emerge. All of the cases outside Mexico involve someone who traveled to Mexico, got the disease and brought it home and started spreading it; we should look at our local quarantine methods, and figure out how to quickly seal off borders if needed. Someday, it might not be an innocuous flu spreading from Mexico, it could be a killer virus.
Second, we have a real opportunity here to highlight the fact that people in third world countries need our help. By and large, only people from destitute areas are dying from swine flu, and the affluent are spared via health and nutrition. Shouldn't we be doing all we can to help the poor?
Posted by Alex Waller at 7:23 AM