Swine flu outbreak

In the last week there have been many stories related to the outbreak of a swine flu which has taken the life of approximately 150 people in Mexico. Of course this is no time to give into panic but to take action, mostly by keeping oneself well informed. It has also been the origin of many plot theories according to which the outbreak isn’t real but more of a diversion from other issues such as the world crisis. I for one rely on the WHO and their statements. We have to be alert, that’s all. The images of the army handing out masks to the general population are compelling, but are they helpful?

How will all this be reflected on a nation’s perception by others? A few years ago we had the so called chicken flu coming from Romania, and later on something similar from China. Even many years before all that there was the mad cow disease, which I think came from England. I’m worried about the reputation of Mexico after the outbreak is controlled and eradicated, since for many years now tourism boards from many countries issue warnings regarding dangers of traveling to Mexico. As a citizen I can tell that many of the things said are out of proportion since criminality is as high as it could be in any other large city.

From the scientific point of view, tracing the origin of any outbreak is always more of a detective’s work. Finding the origin will definitely help finding a way to stop the disease. Fortunately, the number of casualties hasn’t increased thanks to the measures taken by the local governments (like encouraging business owners to close their places for a few days and suspending classes for a week) The spreading seems to be in control, now the flu must be eradicated and that is going to be the hard part.

Technology (link) is helping spread the hysteria faster than the actual disease. Whether it’s about conspiracy theories or zombies-filled cities, giving into panic it’s always a bad idea.

About joaquinbarroso

Computational and theoretical chemist in his early forties, in love with life, science, baseball, and literature. Science literacy makes us responsible citizens, it is therefore a scientific duty to talk, write, and engage with the general public; as Feynman said, if you find science boring, your learning from the wrong teacher. "Make like a molecule and react!"

Posted on April 29, 2009, in Health, Random thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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