Thus far, the swine flu outbreak that has killed 103 people in Mexico is described as a “public health emergency of international concern” by the World Health Organization. That means they fear it could create a worldwide pandemic. It’s already spread to the US and several other countries, and with travel being what it is in the 21st century, it could easily become that pandemic the WHO fears.
Here in the US, the largest number of cases, eight, are in New York City. Some countries have quarantined people who have recently returned from Mexico. Several have also banned pork imports from both Mexico and the US. The danger, however, doesn’t just come from eating tainted pork. The flu can spread from human to human, and in the process become harder to treat or fight off.
There are few people still alive who remember the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. Reading about it, however, sends chills up your spine. It killed more than 100 million people worldwide, double the number killed during all of World War 1. No one is suggesting the current outbreak will equal those numbers, but it certainly is a cause for concern. Symptoms of swine flu include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing, runny nose, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Apparently the swine flu outbreak is having an unintended consequence. Financial markets are trending lower in early trading around the world. There are fears if the outbreak turns into a pandemic it can cripple efforts at economic recovery. Some economists are estimating a pandemic could cost the planet $3 trillion dollars and result in a 5% drop in world gross domestic product.
There are, believe it or not, precautions people can take to at least minimize the possibility of exposure to swine flu. Some recommend carrying a surgical mask, and using it while exposed to large numbers of people. Frequent, thorough hand washing is also recommended.
Right now, swine flu is just starting to enter our collective consciousness here in the US. The number of people affected is relatively small, and even the death toll in Mexico might not alarm us. Yet we need to pay attention. Sickness like this almost always sneaks up on people.
Are you paying attention to swine flu yet?