April 25, 2009

THIS IS TROUBLING: Mexico’s Calderon Declares Emergency Amid Swine Flu Outbreak. And this is also troubling: “The first case was seen in Mexico on April 13. The outbreak coincided with the President Barack Obama’s trip to Mexico City on April 16. Obama was received at Mexico’s anthropology museum in Mexico City by Felipe Solis, a distinguished archeologist who died the following day from symptoms similar to flu, Reforma newspaper reported.” Luckily, though, I expect that if President Obama were going to catch this, he would have gotten sick by now so I guess he’s in the clear.

UPDATE: The World Health Organization is worried: “Experts at WHO and elsewhere believe that the world is now closer to another influenza pandemic than at any time since 1968, when the last of the previous century’s three pandemics occurred.”

More here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The Felipe Solis story is questionable. AP says he died “a week later,” not the next day. And reader Michael Waters emails that Mexican press reports say the cause of death was a heart attack. So stay tuned.

MORE: Drudge is going pedal-to-the-metal on this one, but I think it’s a little early for panic just yet.

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STILL MORE: Not everyone agrees with me: Swine flu spreads panic in Mexico City.

The Mexican capital was a fearful place on Saturday, as residents donned surgical masks, avoided shaking hands or simply stayed home amid a swine flu outbreak that has killed at least 20 people and perhaps as many as 81 across Mexico.

Mexico City has become the epicenter of the sickness, which is suspected to have infected 1,324 people nationwide by Saturday night. Mexican President Felipe Calderón issued a decree allowing the federal health department to enter homes and forcibly quarantine people, and the authorities ordered all schools closed until May 6 in the capital and neighboring Mexico State.

Is this an overreaction, or an underreaction? At this point, it’s impossible to say. The most likely outcome is that this will just be a flu outbreak. But we’ll see.

MORE STILL: Reader Chuck Pelto writes:

I don’t think he’s in ‘panic’. Otherwise, we’d be seeing NOTHING, as he had fled to the proverbial hills.

Instead, he’s providing useful information. More useful than I’m getting from other sources. Indeed, it’s as in my days as a young officer in the 82d. The neighbor across the carports from me in the duplex, on-post, married officers’ housing was with the division intelligence battalion. Over beers he intimated that he got better information from the wire services than he did through official channels. I saw the initial reports on Drudge and forwarded the links to my local public health department. They were pleased to get the ‘heads-up’, as I get the impression that their ‘official channels’ were still sort of ‘asleep’.

Late, yesterday, they were working and sent out a one-over-their-world press release alerting everyone to ‘get ready for trouble’. That’s 60 hours AFTER Drudge started carrying this information.

Whether people ‘panic’ over it is THEIR problem. Not Drudge’s. Nor mine.

Good point.

Plus, reader Michael Greene sends this Swine Flu google map.

FINALLY: Reader Santiago Valenzuela writes:

It seems to me to be much ado about nothing. True, swine flu is a little more deadly than the flu that goes around, but it doesn’t have me worried like the avian flu did before. For the avian flu I actually started stocking up long-term food (though rice, beans and jerkey for months on end never seemed like a good life, it at least meant I wouldn’t have to depend on infrastructure that seems remarkably fragile in these instances) and I ordered antivirals from Russia (sadly, it went bad a year or so ago and I disposed of it properly.) Had a whole little plan worked out.

To be honest, though, this one doesn’t seem nearly as bad as the avian flu, lethality-wise. So I’m not worried about it in particular.

It has reminded me to restock on antivirals, but for a different reason. I think far too many people are simply unprepared for any sort of emergency – even a short term one. I had some antibiotics and antivirals and stores of food on hand not just for pandemics, but because I think it was a generally useful inventory to have. For any number of emergencies – either social or personal (losing a job, riots, pandemic, whatever) I was prepared to batten down the hatches and ride it out alright.

Now I’m married (just a few weeks ago!) but my wife is very amenable to my survivalist tendencies. So its back to stocking up for me. The investment is tiny (I think antivirals and enough food and water to last a human a month ran just a couple hundred bucks!) and the payoff in terms of peace of mind, if nothing else, is tremendously valuable.

Just a thought. All this pandemic worry would be a lot less sensational if the majority of the population was prepared for simple emergencies like this.

Well, as I think I mentioned, my brother got a letter from the State of Ohio a while back advising him and all residents to have a months worth of food and necessaries stored against an avial flu outbreak. Ready.gov has similar recommendations. I think it’s too early to panic on this, but it’s never too early to make sensible preparations, most of which will protect you against the disaster no one expects as well as the one everyone is worried about at any given moment.

On the other hand, you want your gloomy predictions, here’s one. Can’t vouch for its accuracy, and in fact I think it’s unlikely to be borne out. Hope I’m right, of course. . . .

Plus, reason to take a breath and relax. And a roundup from Jules Crittenden.

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