Swine flu: Global pandemic
Did nuclear power kill any Germans prior to the announcement last week of their plans to phase out nuclear power? No.
But Germans are dying now and it’s a safe bet that the cause will not be phased out. It probably won’t even be identified in a generic way, let alone named and shamed and prosecuted. Is it cucumbers? Or cabbage or lettuce or bean sprouts?
“Death toll from E-coli cucumber outbreak reaches 16.” shouted the Sydney Morning Herald over a picture of goats chomping on a mountain of dumped cucumber.
THE onset of the dreaded winter flu season is bringing with it a needling dilemma for many parents.
No one wants to see their child fighting off a soaring temperature accompanied by bouts of coughing and sneezing.
After last year’s pandemic, the offer of a combined vaccination against swine flu as well as influenza A and B seemed like an attractive option for many parents wanting to safeguard their little ones. That was until reports started trickling in of some children suffering adverse effects such as high fever and convulsions from the jab.
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One year ago this weekend, the World Health Organisation issued its first Disease Outbreak Notice on swine flu, confirming the infection of a number of people in Mexico and the US. A few weeks later the previously unknown virus had Australia holding its breath when the first cases hit our shores.
The World Health Organisation went on to declare their first pandemic in more than 40 years and the media went into overdrive. A year on you could argue the hype was all a bit excessive and that experts keen to get their names up in lights were crying wolf and playing into the hands of news editors who think the biggest numbers make the best headlines.
But ultimately if a new virus was to emerge again this flu season, should we react differently? Probably not. The reality is most viruses don’t mutate into deadly killers; but it has happened before and it will happen again.
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A group that has suggested Swine Flu is a man-made conspiracy has now furthered its campaign against vaccination by jumping on concerns about Swine Flu vaccine.
In a press release issued on August 28, titled “Swine flu indemnity - why there are concerns about this vaccine”, the Australian Vaccination Network links an issue over medical practitioners’ indemnity with concerns about ingredients and past practices, as well as drawing in claims about past issues with vaccines.
In response, Eran Segev, president of Australian Skeptics, has warned that “The AVN is taking advantage of the current situation over insurance indemnity for the Swine Flu vaccine in order to spread fear and alarm about vaccinations in general.”
The strange thing about having swine flu is that it is more like meeting a pop culture icon than being told you’re sick.
After being examined by two doctors yesterday (the intern called for backup) I was told that I had the best accessory in the Winter 2009 collection – the H1N1 virus.
This terminology was obviously preferred by doctors who refuse to engage in the more tabloid pig or swine flu. It also would have sounded alarmist when paired with their sage advice which was basically “go back to bed and you’ll be right, young bloke like yourself” etc.
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To medicate or not to medicate, that is the question.
British comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb tackle the traditional vs alternative medicine debate.
Below are some links to more coverage around the world after the WHO declared a global swine flu pandemic. It’s the first pandemic in more than 40 years.
We’re only at the start of winter so this year could, at the rate we’re going, end up being bigger than 2007 in terms of total confirmed flu cases. Swine flu cases are being confirmed rapidly, sometimes at a rate of over 100 a day, so it won’t be long before that red bar starts to draw level with previous years. But the graph gives some context to the spread of the flu so far when compared to the very bad years. And remember, this is notified cases - if you had a flu and treated it with some aspirin and a lie-down, your case won’t be in there.
So what do we do now? Is it time to panic? I know some people have died from it but it feels much more like a pandemic of runny noses. Share your thoughts in the comments.
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I woke up to a different Mexico on April 23, 2009. I was returning from covering a story in Hong Kong. And this was a really different Mexico: people on the street wearing blue masks, the media and internet in complete madness, collective panic.
And us Mexicans, who are always so warm in our daily dealings, sharing food with others, kissing and hugging each other hello every time we meet - these beautiful customs were suddely gone amid the fear of contagion of a “new virus”.
Where had this virus come from? Pigs are not reared side to side with birds in Mexico. It was so absurd. We had never even had a case of dangerous flu.
Before the advent of swine flu, Nicola Roxon’s most notable public outing was during the 2007 election campaign when Health Minister Tony Abbott failed to show up for a televised debate at the National Press Club.
Finding herself in the middle of a politician’s fantasy – a forum on national television to herself – Roxon showed a good combination of humility and pugnacity by addressing the audience herself, and making the point to Abbott that he should have organised his time better.
Her quiet sledging drew the above, infamous response from Abbott: “That’s bullshit.”
PIGS might fly. At least that’s what many Australians believe their chances are of being struck down by swine flu.
Epidemics have a habit of incubating fear and panic. But in cyberspace many people are just getting sick of what they perceive as excessive hype over the swine flu.
While health authorities have been issuing warnings about health and hygiene practices, quarantining suspected flu carriers and closing schools, the measures have been met with skepticism by bloggers to major Australian news forums.
There is a widely-held belief coming through online comments that Australian authorities are over-reacting to the seriousness of the influenza.
One of the best Simpsons quotes has got to be Homer’s reply to Ned Flanders after being lectured about the patches of Crabgrass on his lawn: “There is nothing wrong with Crabgrass! It’s just has a bad name that’s all! Everyone would love it if it were called, eh, Elfgrass!”
I’m beginning to think swine flu is the Crabgrass of influenza strains.
The free afternoon newspaper MX in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane had a great headline on Friday: Flu Spread Fear. I like it because you read it (well I did) as: Flu Spreads Fear.
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Two Fridays ago we were all blissfully unaware of the impending doom about to be unleashed by those damn Mexicans and their unusual domestic arrangements with pigs. By Monday April 27 we were in the brace position – suspiciously eyeing anyone who appeared to be of Latin origin – and being warned not to cause a run on the national supply of Tamiflu.
By midnight that night all pilots in charge of flights coming from affected countries were ordered to report any passengers with flu-like symptoms, while TV news bulletins led with the installation of thermal imaging scanners at the airports. The NSW Government rushed through emergency powers to detain people with suspected cases in their homes. But swine flu jokes were already rampant as the death toll from suspected cases in Mexico climbed to the low hundreds.
Then the unthinkable happened – a 23-month-old became the first person to die of suspected H1N1 in the United States. The UNITED STATES!
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DEATH is often depicted in Mexico as an ever-present and humanised force, in the form of a skeletal woman with nicknames such as The Bald One, The Skinny One, The Weeping Woman and, creepiest of all, The Fancy Lady.
The country’s pre-Colombian traditions and its bloody modern history provide a good foundation for a death cult. The Mexican Revolution claimed at least 1.4 million lives between 1910 and 1917. The official toll from the 1985 Mexico City earthquake is 10,000; Mexicans say it’s more than 30,000. Since January last year, the number of drug-related murders stands at 7337 - not all murders, just drug murders.
A lot of them aren’t routine shootings. One guy nicknamed El Pozolero, The Stew-Maker, was arrested last year for boiling down the bodies of more than 100 rival cartel members in vats of acid.
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