Joe Hendren

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bad flu confirmed in NZ and Israel

Yikes - three New Zealanders have tested positive for 'Swine Flu'. I understand these cases are not as serious as those in Mexico at this stage, thanks to early medical treatment. I wish all those afflicted a speedy recovery.

Sandy Szwarc, on her Junkfood Science blog, suggests a good reason why there have been more deaths in Mexico than elsewhere. Rather than being exposed to a more virulent strain, Szwarc says Mexicans are afflicted by extreme poverty.

The leading story on BBC World News is the confirmed cases of 'swine flu' in New Zealand and Israel.

I watched parliamentary debate on Tony Ryall's ministerial statement on the flu outbreak. Good to see all parties taking a constructive approach. Many were thankful of the work carried out over the past four years in preparing for the day New Zealand would face a potentially deadly flu outbreak. One hopes this makes National a little more kindly disposed to the public service in the upcoming budget.

Unfortunately the reaction from the government in Israel has been less than helpful.

"Ultra-Orthodox Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman on Monday declared that Israel would call the new potentially deadly disease that has already struck two continents 'Mexico Flu,' rather than 'Swine Flu, as pigs are not kosher. "We will call it Mexico flu. We won't call it swine flu," Litzman told a news conference on Monday, assuring the Israeli public that authorities were prepared to handle any cases. "

'Swine' flu may not be the most medically accurate term to use, but it sure beats unfairly tainting the citizens of an entire country by naming it after them. It would also be unfortunate to give the public the impression only those with contact with Mexico are are risk - confirmed human to human contact and the age of air travel makes this a nonsense.

One wonders what Israel's Ultra-Orthodox politicians would be saying in the case a flu started in Israel, and people suggested calling it Israel flu. I suspect their reaction would be hysterical and predictable.

That only serves to demonstrate the stupidity of naming the flu after a particular country.

The 1918 flu only came to be known as the Spanish flu because it received greater press attention when it moved from France to Spain in November 1918, and Spain did not have wartime press censorship at the time. There are a number of theories regarding its starting point - suggestions include the Far East, Kansas and Austria. Of course in New Zealand, it would be most appropriate to call the 1918 outbreak the Massey flu.

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At 12:55 pm, Blogger Fatal Paradox said...

US socialist academic Mike Davis has written a good article on the role of capitalist agribusiness and Western governments in creating the conditions for the spread of swine flu:

In general though I think the coverage of this story by the media has been very poor - i.e. lots of alarmist, panic-driven hype and very little serious analysis.

At 1:45 pm, Blogger Joe Hendren said...

Thanks Fatal Paradox

Focus on the Global South's Focus on Trade newsletter had some great analysis of the so called Asian Bird Flu outbreak in 2004 - and told a similar story. At the time the Thai government engaged in some actions that were highly irresponsible - largely to protect multinational agribusiness that happened to be based in Thailand (mostly the chicken industry)

While Thaksin Shinawatra has more right to govern Thailand than the current bunch of thugs who resorted to a military coup and really do not care for democracy - perhaps those in the red shirts should remember how quickly Thaksin leapt to the defence of the Thai chicken multinationals - its clear he wasn't acting in the interests of the public.

At 2:06 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yourself - and Idot/Savant - ought to do a bit of reseach befoe peddling the "Massey wot done it" story. That myth has been debunked for so long that it is only now retold by the intellectually lazy, or those who find it suits their ideological disposition to repeat it, or both.

Whatever reason, it detracts from yours and I/S's wider credibility to recount such a widely debunked piece of nonsense.

At 8:18 pm, Blogger Joe Hendren said...

When I suggested above it would be most appropriate to call the 1918 outbreak the Massey flu I was more thinking of the gross irresponsiblity of the decision not to quarantine the Niagara. One call imagine the call of 'we can't do that to the Prime Minister'.

So I wasn't thinking of anything as simplistic as 'Massey wot done it'. Even in the case where there may have been a few cases of flu already in Auckland it is still reasonable to believe, as some did, that had the Niagra been quarantined, the influenza would not have spread so far or so quickly.

Perhaps it could be said there would a stronger case for calling it Massey flu in New Zealand than there is to call it Spanish flu, as has been the custom since 1918.

I welcome all comments on my blog, including critical ones. That said I would appreciate it if people cite some evidence themselves or a link in support of their position rather than just state something is a 'myth'. IMHO it makes for a more enlightening discussion.


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