Junkfood Science: All of humanity under threat…

May 03, 2009

All of humanity under threat…

There are now nearly 2.3 million news stories on Google News about swine flu. The World Health Organization is now backing off it’s pandemic rhetoric and reports a total of 19 people worldwide have died from this particular strain of the flu, all from Mexico except for one child from Mexico who died in a Houston hospital in the United States.

Despite last week’s exaggerated death count speculations in the media, Mexico’s health secretary Jose Angel Cordova admits the virus isn’t as lethal as feared and Dr. Nancy Cox, director of the CDC’s influenza division, again tried to tell the media this morning that even preliminary genotyping of the virus had suggested there was no support for comparing it to the 1918 flu pandemic. (Her cautionary notes, once again, didn't make the official stance on the Sunday talk shows.) This newly tested for strain of the flu appears less lethal than the common flu, just as other swine flu strains have proven to be for decades.

Yet the priorities of governments and media highlighted that the swine flu hysteria is not really about sound risk assessments:

More than 433 public school in the United States had closed over swine flu fears as of Friday, and graduation ceremonies have been cancelled, with diplomas being mailed.

Only one school system in the entire United States, Maricopa County Valley schools in Arizona, has reopened its schools. On Saturday, Maricopa County Public Health Director Bob England, said such drastic containment measures aren’t necessary because medical evidence suggests that the swine flu virus is no more virulent than common influenza strains, which kill more than 30,000 every year. “Frankly, this virus doesn't warrant that. It ain't that bad,” he said. “It's just a regular flu with a fancy name.”

New York City cancelled Cinco de Mayo, the festival is popular with Mexicans and organizer Carmelo Maceda said they “couldn’t afford to take a chance” and risk the “contamination of thousands of thousands of people.”

Proms, concerts, sporting events and church services across the country have been canceled.

Chinese authorities have confined nearly 70 asymptomatic Mexican business and tourist travelers, keeping them hostage in hotels in what is being described as unacceptable conditions and government discriminatory action.

President Obama told the public that his administration was “making every recommendation based on the best science possible” and was taking aggressive action. “Out of an abundance of caution,” the government requested another $1.5 billion in funds to buy more antivirals and for the development of a swine flu vaccine. That’s on top of $156 million already appropriated in March for pandemic influenza research and $6.1 billion previously earmarked for flu pandemic preparedness. What many found disturbing is that the government is actually considering sacrificing some of the 30,000-50,000 Americans who die each year of the seasonal flu to pay pharmaceutical companies to divert their resources from producing their usual winter flu vaccine to a vaccine for swine flu.

Dallas Morning News reports concern is growing within the Mexican community, which is poorer and where families have less access to health care, that they could face continued discriminatory backlash. Community leader, Jorge Navarrete, said the bashing of Mexican immigrants is wrong: “The virus isn’t going to distinguish between Anglo, Mexican or African-Americans.”

Reuters reports that Egyptian police fired tear gas on Sunday at garbage collectors who pelted them with rocks and bottles over fears they had come to seize their pigs as a precaution against swine flu and at least ten people were injured. Egypt, which Reuters reported was “already hit hard by bird flu,” had ordered the slaughter of all 300,000 to 400,000 pigs in the country on April 29 as a precaution. The number of cases of swine flu in Egypt, according to the WHO: zero. Not even a single suspected case. According to journalist Pierre Tristam in an article titled “Swine Flu Unleashes Epidemic of Prejudice,” the pig farmers are Coptic Christians, a minority in the Muslim country and often victims of prejudice.

While a strain of influenza has resulted in 19 deaths worldwide — the world’s greatest disease, malaria, kills 1.5 to 3 million every year — one person every 12 seconds; 3,000 children a day in Africa alone — mostly killing poor people in Africa. Malaria afflicts more than 2,400 million people around the world, over 40% of the world’s population, in more than 100 countries, including 1,324 cases in the United States, according to CDC 2004 figures. WHO statistics show a 16% growth in malaria cases each year, yet the entire world combined has spent only $58 million on malaria research.

In contrast to about 2.3 million news stories about swine flu on Google News, how many news stories have there been about a malaria pandemic?


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