Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine flu overview: are we all gonna die?

By Rick Morris

As if the collapsing economy, revival of interest in ABBA through the “Mamma Mia” play and subsequent screenplay, an unpopular war, presidential election of a fresh-faced newcomer preaching idealism and wildly gyrating world oil markets didn’t signify enough of a return to the 1970s, now comes the swine flu back on to the national stage. The last time this plague was on the tips of everyone’s tongues 33 years ago, Gerald Ford was ordering a set of circumstances for the entire country to be inoculated.

Unfortunately, the cure caused as many problems as the disease actually did – since the much-feared pandemic did not actually materialize – due to side effects and various complications that proved fatal or at least grossly sickening to many. As such, it’s worth considering that even though many are touting Tamiflu as a potential solution to the problem, it too has its share of potential troubling issues.

Tamiflu was stockpiled in great amounts by the Bush administration, which was anticipating an avian flu pandemic which may still arise at some point. The shadow that hangs over all of the decisions made by various administrations, past and present, is the flu pandemic of 1918 that killed between 20 and 100 million people worldwide – at a time when global travel was a tiny, tiny fraction of what it is now. More recently, the complete failure of local, state and federal agencies to deal with Hurricane Katrina impressed upon politicians the fact that the American public has a zero-tolerance attitude when domestic tranquility is threatened in any way by emergency factors.

So how scared should we be right about now? Realistically, that question cannot be answered until health authorities can figure out why the virus has been almost completely deadly where it appeared to originate in Mexico and has not killed every last person to contract it outside of there.

But from what we can discern, there’s not much that should console anybody. Smelling blood, Obama administration allies are seizing the opportunity to politicize the potential crisis by blaming the potential pandemic on Congressional Republicans who were willing to allow funding to study such issues but wanted to keep it intellectually honest and out of the “emergency spending” stimulus bill. Meanwhile, in an early sign that the government will only go as far as political correctness will allow, Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano has preemptively ruled out closing the Mexican border regardless of present circumstances.

At the same time that political pygmies were toying with our lives through their tactics, Glenn Beck was reminding us all on Monday of the report from the Pentagon that came out in January that warned that two countries were on the brink of potential collapse: Pakistan and … wait for it, wait for it … yes, Mexico! That country was in grave peril from the pre-existing narco-terrorism crisis, he noted … how hot does the cauldron get once you add to the mix the panic of potential mass death and an economy that will grind to a complete halt as the entire country is quarantined waiting for the crisis to resolve itself? Oh, also, we have a southern border that politicians of both parties refuse to defend properly lest they appear insensitive to Latinos, so we could end up with a further population explosion in this country, this time with a great many swine flu carriers in the bunch. Wonderful!

So it is impossible to view the situation right now with any kind of wild optimism. The best hope is that quarantining the sick works as it did in the lower-level cases of SARS and avian flu this decade. That does remain somewhat possible, at least as of today. Additionally, if the predominant strain that spreads is more of the American variety and less of the Mexican one, more people will survive it and it will merely end up as a more lethal version of the existing flu bug that hits every year.

In order to keep tabs on what is happening with this potential pandemic, we recommend two key sources: a roundup of all news relating to this situation that is constantly updated on Glenn Beck’s website and The Flu News Blog, the best source of all virus-related information on the Internet.

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