The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

Cary Brunswick

May 2, 2009

Flu may be the revenge of the critters

You know, in many ways it all comes down to the way we raise our critters for food.

We should realize that the animals might come back to haunt us somehow.

Now it's swine flu. Why not just call it pig flu; do they think swine makes people feel any better? And the pigs surely think they're getting a bad rap, since they got it from chickens or some other fowl.

The recent outbreak of swine flu, fortunately, is a mild strain so that even as it spreads, not many people are dying and therefore aren't panicking. But the bug's not diminishing yet.

By Thursday, the number of the nation's swine flu victims passed 100, and government officials said they would make that eventually enough vaccine for everyone would be produced. They said shots couldn't begin until fall at the earliest.

The outbreak penetrated more than a dozen states.

Despite the media jumping all over the news, the outbreak is minute compared to some in the past. And the story's a break from the guilt-ridden news of torture and the depressing economy, just as pirates were a few weeks ago.

The deadly 1918 Spanish flu virus killed millions, but that was before we had antibiotics and other drugs that could fight the bug. That virus also went from birds to pigs and then to humans, a path that has been considered likely to produce the most dangerous strains.

The government figures a 1918-like pandemic today would infect 90 million people in the U.S., with about 10 million requiring hospitalization. I'm sure we're not ready to deal with that, and presumably we won't have to.

Nearly a century later, it seems there's been little progress in finding out how the pigs get the flu from the birds, and then how it gets to humans, since the experts say it's not transmitted by eating pork chops, bacon or ham.

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Cary Brunswick

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