Swine Flu

We have gone stark raving mad if we imagine that the current swine flu outbreak is leading the world into some sort of widespread global contagion. As of 29th April there were a total of eight deaths and some 296 cases of confirmed swine flu worldwide. Every year influenza is responsible for the death of a quarter to a half million people annually, even in non-pandemic years.

Swine flu is endemic and not a serious disease amongst the estimated 1.8 million wild pig populations of central Europe. According to a report into swine fever among these pigs, the clinical signs of the disease are variable and the blood test that is said to detect the virus is unreliable. One practicing UK vet and a specialist on pig diseases has said that :

With all our concentration on the word 'virus' people have discounted the words' environment' and 'host'.With today's approach to intensive pig farming, the antibiotics, the cramped conditions,is it any wonder that they can become ill?

In this current conversation on the perils of swine flu, some attention needs to be given to the challenging environments in which the human species now live? Perhaps the deaths of these eight people from Swine Flu was due in part to the fact that they were living in less than optimal circumstances. Surely these deaths need to be put into some context. But this is lacking and not part of the sensationalism emanating from our media; rather we are left in the dark, most probably deliberately as Noam Chomsky describes:

Keep the people passive and obedient so as to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion and allow a very lively debate to occur within the allowed spectrum. This gives people the sense that there is free thinking going on while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.

History records that this is not the first swine flu scare and that in1976, based solely on the death of one soldier at Fort Dix in New Jersey, U.S. President Gerald Ford mandated a nationwide swine flu vaccination program, resulting in the deaths of 30 people from a paralytic condition called Guillain Barre syndrome.

In this current swine flu scare, the news media has raised the threat of a pandemic to a level of hysteria not possible before the age of the internet and cable news. Consequently many draconian measures are now being implemented including the completion of health declaration cards on entering the country, and subjecting passengers to thermal temperature scanners. On 29th April, Latrobe University activated its own emergency plan, which among other measures includes a ban on staff travel to Mexico. It also recommends the strengthening of the vaccination program for university staff.

Such emergency measures are concerning in that once implemented they may remain in place and could extend to the point of having swine flu and other vaccinations made compulsory for global travel. We should be very alarmed about this erosion of our civil liberties especially when very recent and similarly hyped up health fears failed to eventuate. In 1995 the world was confronted with the BSE scare and the fear that this would infect up to 10 million Britons. Instead of the projected deaths, the massive hysteria led to tens of thousands of cattle being destroyed. Will the pork industry suffer the fate of the beef industry as bans are placed on the import of pork from affected countries?

Many fear that this swine flu drama could be a repeat of the 1918 flu outbreak. This will not occur as we have antibiotics to treat the pneumonias that developed back then and excellent nutrition that underscores our general well being. Our knowledge of hygiene and our medical facilities are vastly superior to the post war world of 1918.