Friday, 1 May 2009

Swine flu - perspectives

I've been meaning to write about this for a little while, then I would change my mind because I am not an expert in this so have nothing really to add. But the topic occupied my thoughts so much to the point that I can't think of anything else to write about so in an act of desperation... here I go.

I guess my only qualifier is that I'm from Mexico and have come back from there relatively recently (but long ago enough that I'm not really at any risk). I still have lots of friends and family back there and I get lots of information from them on what things are really like at ground level. So when I see the news here in the UK, I have those filters in my mind.

At first I even thought the whole thing was relatively funny - the media taking a small story and blowing it up, causing other people/countries to panic. Why was the story picked up in the first place? I thought that it was perhaps a diversion from the economic situation, or maybe some political move from the Mexican government (to cover something else up) or maybe even some sort of conspiracy, which I won't even write about here.

Stories got more and more serious and I even wondered if things really are as bad as they said. Basically the country is shutting down for a few days in the hopes of containing the flu virus - but isn't this weekend a long bank holiday weekend over there anyway? (1st and 5th of May are bank holidays) So in a way it is good timing to close things down, as schools would be closed anyway. True, people still would have had to go to work but the timing of the shut down seems very good. The bind is that people are being advised to stay at home instead of being able to get out and enjoy the days off. I am sure that this is driving a lot of moms crazy, having to keep the kids at home!

All deaths (except one and technically the little boy is from Mexico but happened to be in the US) have been in Mexico. Elsewhere it appears that people that catch the disease report mainly mild symptoms and respond well to drugs. At least in the UK, it appears that the result of having swine flu is to become famous and to have media fighting for their story. But this couple doesn't seem to have any serious illness other than greed - they have now engaged Max Clifford, the famous publicist, to sell their story. This for me has now been the tipping point: they have turned a flu into a money-making enterprise!

So far there have been hundreds of suspected cases and a few hundred deaths. While I'm sure it is very sad for the families concerned, in terms of numbers they are relatively low - outside of Mexico there are less than 200 confirmed cases (according to the BBC). To give this some perspective, malaria kills 250,000 children evey year in Nigeria alone! But this doesn't get broadcast on prime time on TV every night.

I'm not trying to say that this isn't serious because it probably is, but I'm just asking for a little perspective. The media love to whip us up into a frenzy because it sells more papers (which is good in these tough times) and make us thing the end of the world is nigh. It's a shame that Nigerians can not afford the services of Max Clifford, then their story would get more exposure and malaria would be erradicated by the 2010 deadline.

(To make a donation to the UNICEF and help the children of the world live better and fuller lives, visit this page.)


Esther said...

Hola Clau, nunca dejo comentarios pero leo tu blog casi religiosamente y me encanta. Soy mexicana viviendo desde hace unos tres anitos aqui en UK. Agregando cosas incoherentes a esto del swine flu...pues sucede que casi todos los extranjeros (de varios paises) que regresan de Mex "infectados" estuvieron en Cancun y curiosamente ahi nunca hubo ningun caso de influenza, sin embargo la compania Thompson cancelo sus salidas con ese destino, pero las grandes aerolineas que son las que viajan a el DF donde se "supone" esta la epidemia no han cancelado nada, al menos no han cambiado status hasta el 5 de mayo (se supone yo iba el 8 jA! a ver con que me salen) Un saludo, Esther

Jane said...

You are so right-on! Simple diarrhea, which is preventable and due mostly to poor hygiene and malnutrition, kills more babies in poor communities than these 'pandemics'! I don't mean to say this flu is not dangerous or serious, but people need to 'get a grip' on reality. For the unfortunate people who have died from swine flu, I'd like to know what condition they were in before they contracted it: were they prviously ill, very young, very old, malnourished, etc.? The media screamers seem to have left these details out. Yes, we need to be careful but not hysterical.


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