We didn’t need this right now. In a year that already feels like the Biblical Plagues, what with a couple of wars, an economic meltdown, terrorism, piracy, threats of nuclear proliferation to bad actors, and a whole host of other things to worry about, now we have news of the evolution of a wholly new flu strain in Mexico City, that has already popped up in California, Texas, New York and, likely, in other places. And this story only broke at the end of last week! What’s next? Frogs falling from the skies, perhaps?
We are treated to endless footage and photos of Mexico City’s frightened residents, walking through that city of 20 million, donned in surgical masks, which Sanjay Gupta, fresh from withdrawing his name from consideration for the next US Surgeon General, says won’t do a damn thing to prevent the very tiny microbes from getting into one’s respiratory system. The World Health Organization met Saturday in Geneva and stopped just short of raising the Pandemic Threat level, but made worrisome statements that sounded like they are holding their breath.
Growing up in Boston back in the 50’s and 60’s, I heard my grandparents and others tell stories of the Spanish Flu that killed 25 million or more worldwide in 1918-1919 in the pre-antibiotic and modern medicine days – it hit Boston particularly hard. My mother’s father was apparently one of those hardy types who could be exposed but, for some reason, did not come down with that Flu, and I heard stories of him bravely riding around Boston on his bicycle, delivering food to sick relatives, and of bodies stacked up, waiting for someone to take them to wherever you take bodies during epidemics. Whole families were bedridden, there were quarantines, and it all sounds absolutely horrible.
The Media drumbeat has started. The Swine Flu story is repeated endlessly like they cover hurricanes, tornadoes, aviation disasters, terrorist attacks and other such wall-to-wall ‘Disaster 2009’ coverage, which we even do here in Southern California when a few drops of rain are spotted and slicker-clad, drenched and windblown, but intrepid, reporters bravely make their stand at all hours, covering ‘StormWatch 2009!’ Whether there is really anything to worry about or not, one thing is for sure about this ‘Swine Flu 2009” [!], the Media will take this one to the moon, and back.
I will share one of the best ways to track this flu outbreak, if you promise not to tell anybody: this link shows you a bunch of different websites that you can bookmark and check obsessively over the next week or two, to see if this is really “IT,” or, if this will just be another factoid that will pop up in future trivia games, like the Swine Flu outbreaks back in the 60’s that really amounted to very little.
They (the Scientific and Medical Establishment) have been warning us about this for decades, however. That it is only a matter of time, “when,” not “if,” before we do, in fact, have another flu pandemic like the Spanish Flu that swept the world back in the nineteen-teens. Then there is that really disturbing article in the Huffington Post, where journalist David Kirby, describes some God-awful sounding industrial-strength hog production at a giant scale in and around Mexico City, and what that bodes for all this.
They are calling this the H1N1 strain, a previously never-seen-before cocktail of flu, composed of Swine Flu, Avian Flu and Human Flu’s, morphed into a wholly new strain by the forces of evolution and crowded conditions where nearly 7 Billion humans now inhabit an earth which, for most of the several million year hominid history on our planet, housed much more modest populations of our species, perhaps in the hundreds of thousands. They are saying that there is direct human to human transmission – you sneeze, I breathe – and that the proof is those New York high school students who recently returned from a trip to Mexico and did not visit any pigs while they were there, but seem to be infected. Even President Obama, and his traveling entourage of staff, press and security, were all recent visitors to Mexico.
It does look like they are taking this very seriously and, undoubtedly, much more will be known about this new Swine Flu by the time you read this. Are we in for quarantines and lots of stay-at-home time telecommuting to our jobs and businesses for a while until this blows over? Will Los Angeles, with its’ enormous population of folks from Mexico and it’s constant human traffic back and forth across the border, be hit – hard, perhaps? Or, will this all blow over – after all, so far, we are only talking about maybe a thousand people out of Mexico City’s 20 million?
Stay tuned and, meanwhile, remember to wash your hands a lot, avoid touching eyes, mouth and nose, and be aware of who is coming to work sick – and, ask them to stay home and keep their germs to themselves.