We're one week into L.A.'s chapter of the swine flu pandemic/panic and already people are asking, "Where's the pork?" Raised on bio-disaster movies and braced for the worst upon
hearing of Mexico's initial death toll, Angelenos were expecting (not, I should stress, hoping) to see bodies in the street and the breakdown of civilization. Instead, there has not been a single confirmed case of the flu in the county, despite some deaths and illnesses that drew the attention of authorities. The early hope of public health officials that the strain would prove to be a mild one is now cautiously being acknowledged as a distinct possibility. (Image: Nuke Pills)
As of yesterday we seem to be taking the swine flu in stride: None of the half-dozen May Day marches that will converge on City Hall have been called off, nor has the Cinco de Mayo celebration on Olvera Street been cancelled. Still, California does have 14 confirmed cases (most of them in the border counties of San Diego and Imperial), including that of a Marine stationed at Twentynine Palms. The Marine's illness has prompted the five-day quarantine of the 30 to 37 Marines who might have come in contact with him.
There are also 29 suspected swine flu cases statewide. One of these two
who live in L.A. County is a Cal State Long Beach student who is said
to be suffering a mild form of the flu. So far the flu has provided
some organizations and causes with fodder for publicity campaigns. The
Reaching Higher for Healthcare Coalition of labor, clergy and community
groups staged a march and rally at LAX's Tom Bradley Terminal Wednesday
to press demands for "raising healthcare standards for airport
workers" in California. The group's press release said, "Worker anger over the lack of quality health care has come to a head as concerns about swine flu have mounted."
groups, meanwhile, have had a Roman holiday citing Mexico's
patient-zero status as proof of the need for closed borders.
"FYI," crowed WeHateGringos,
"[t]he U.S. Border Patrol was originally created to patrol the border
to prevent people with diseases from entering the country."
Finally, in a somewhat comic (if not surreal) sideshow, efforts continue to rename the flu. As we noted yesterday,
Israel's deputy health minister is trying to rebrand swine flu as the
"Mexican flu," which provoked Mexico's anger. Both the Paris-based
World Organization for Animal Health and Brazilian pork producers have
implored the World Health Organization to rename it the "North American
flu," while U.S. Centers for Disease Control officials would prefer the
ultra-nerdy name, "H1N1 flu." The Department of Homeland Security,
however, geeks it up a notch by insisting its true name should be "H1N1
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Branding diseases with geographic names has
long been a hot-button issue. The Associated Press notes that no one
really knows why the infamous Spanish flu of 1918 was so named, since
it possibly originated in Kansas.