Going viral, literally
This weekend’s outbreak of swine flu, reported to have begun in Mexico, proved serious enough to warrant a public health emergency here in the United States, where as of press time cases have arisen in five states — none of which is North Carolina. But with our strong contingent of Mexican nationals and our status as the nation’s largest pork-processing state, we predict it’s only a matter of time before swine flu becomes the Big Story in these parts, whether through documented cases of the disease or hyperinflated propoganda. If given the choice, we’d take the propoganda. There is an election coming up in the fall, and it has been demonstrated that it is difficult to get elected to any public office in North Carolina without taking some kind of “stand” against illegal immigration. An outbreak of swine flu could be a game-changer in the 2009 elections. Unfortunately, it could also be a watershed event in world history. Generally speaking, swine flu is transferred from pigs to humans. This current outbreak is unique in that it seems to be able to jump from human to human, and though as of press time there has been no evidence that it is an airborne virus, citizens in Mexico City are already wearing surgical masks over their mouths and noses. It probably couldn’t hurt. With more than 2,000 showing symptoms in Mexico since April 13 and 50 confirmed cases in the US, certainly there is cause for concern, if not outright alarm just yet. According to calculations by the Center for Disease Control, an outbreak could see almost 3 million North Carolinians taking sick and perhaps 8,000 deaths in our state. A severe strain of the flu, like the 1918 outbreak of Spanish influenza in 1918, could cause more than 65,000 deaths in North Carolina alone.
Fortunately, there is a plan in place for just this kind of disaster, which is more than we can say for Hurricane Katrina. North Carolina has had a plan in place since 2004, in which seven regional response teams cover the entire state in conjunction with the feds. As is happening now in other states, the sick — or those suspected of being exposed to the virus — will be quarantined under the authority of the federal government. Washington has also begun to distribute 12 million doses of flu-fighting medication to affected states. But there are things we know now that we didn’t in 1918 to prevent the spread of viral infections. Certainly people should wash their hands more often, with soap and hot water. Stay away from sick people, and stay home if you exhibit flu-like symptoms. And keep in mind that influenza is generally a seasonal virus, and that it’s potency wanes in hot and humid climates before it comes back in the fall with a vengeance.
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There is an election coming up in the fall, and it has been demonstrated that it is difficult to get elected to any public office in North Carolina without taking some kind of ‘stand’ against illegal immigration.