Posted by: Snake Oil Baron | July 4, 2009

Flu For Thought

The wife of a Kenyan government minister visiting Algeria felt she was such an important VIP (her husband is the Minister for Culture and Sport for God sakes – in a nation trying to lift itself out of poverty, they have a ministry for culture and sport and she thinks she is a VIP as opposed to, say… a mucous-covered parasitic flatworm), that she does not need to stay isolated even though she is displaying symptoms of H1N1 influenza. Let the entire hotel get sick – let all of Algeria get sick. It’s not like there are lots of people in Africa with preexisting conditions which might make this flu dangerous or anything. Pregnancy, HIV, TB, poverty, urban overcrowding… it’s all rather unheard of in Africa I understand.

Meanwhile, the battle by media and health officials against the mass global panic about the new flu – a panic which has yielded a worldwide death toll approaching 1 (with a margin of error of +/- 1) continues but even some of the devote are beginning to wonder if the “It’s almost always mild” message has been over done.

Researchers are discovering evidence suggesting that the virus can indeed get down into the lungs and even guts of ferrets which are a close animal model for humans (I would have thought rats but maybe I’m prejudice). The gut infections would explain the diarrhea and vomiting in some human cases. But the virus is a little weak in its ability to attach to the relevant human cell receptors. Given the speed that resistance to Tamiflu is popping up around the globe, I don’t think that would be too much of a challenge. The vaccine will be ready sooner or later and even if lots of anti-vaccinationists refuse it, the immunity on the population will help slow it’s progress in the industrialized nations. Since Russia is falling apart at the seems and has yet to even hit its debt crisis, I wouldn’t necessarily keep Russia in the league of “industrialized nations” and mass vaccination campaigns in Central Asia and Africa are hard to imagine being implemented in a timely fashion. Especially when there a so many VIPs and ministries of culture and sport to maintain.

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