So swine flu has now officially been declared a pandemic. I’m guessing that most Americans will shrug at the news, having decided the threat was way overblown. Myself, I’m scheduled to start worrying about it again in the fall, when the flu season picks up again. Until then, the big questions are:
- Will the virus mutate to become more virulent? Or will it lose some of its punch?
- What will happen in the Southern Hemisphere over the summer? Will people in poor countries prove especially vulnerable, or will they be largely spared?
- And will the international public health community rush sufficient amounts of vaccine into production? This is still important even if the illness remains “mild.” Its novelty will create a strain on health systems, simply because many more people will fall ill than in a normal flu season. The “pandemic” label lets WHO accelerate the vaccine process, but I’m skeptical that supply will meet demand.
In the meantime, we are so lucky, because the State Department apparently knows where the threat is: elsewhere!!
I just got my new passport. It came with a little brochure that informed me about the RFID tracking chip in the passport (eek!), warned me against abducting my children overseas, and enlightened me on “Pandemic Flu”:
For information about pandemic influenza and how you can protect yourself if there is an outbreak while you are abroad, please visit the official U.S. Government pandemic influenza website at http://www.pandemicflu.gov.
Um, sorry to break the news to the State Department, but ground zero for the pandemic is right here in North America. The virus may well have originated in the U.S. before spreading to Mexico. Sure, plane travel spreads it, but there’s no reason to think I’ll be at more risk when I travel to Germany in a couple weeks than when I flew out to Seattle and Eugene last month.
I guess xenophobia is at pandemic levels, too.