Saturday, May 9, 2009

It Ain't Over Til The Pigs Stop Sneezing

Pooh and Piglet cartoon, click to enlarge
It Ain't Over Til The Pigs Stop Sneezing

Swine flu appears to have been abandoned by the breathless, ADD mainstream press for other, more earth-shaking news about head-butting and mustard preferences. But the fact that a mutated strain of swine flu, derived from swine, bird, and human variants, for which there are no vaccines -- this is still extremely important to our long-term well-being. Even if fears that this is a shadow influenza, portending a much worse outbreak next fall and winter, turn out not to be the case.

Influenza is known for its proclivity to mutate, and for its pandemic potential when it does so. Science is doing it best to stay on top of this, and as we remove the flat-earthers in our government, we can leave that aspect of this problem to science -- as is so eloquently explained by our own Evan Robinson in I Heard The Flu's Today, Oh Boy, part of his stellar series keeping us up-to-date on the real story.

What is available to us, as responsible citizens, is action on (a) making sure proactive health care is available to all who need it and (b) eliminating conditions which aggravate or actively foster the proclivity of influenza (and other organisms) to mutate in deadly ways. Both of these courses of action will mean major societal change. As the smart and honest responders to my post Making Links pointed out, those who live in urban areas on limited income -- possibly a majority of Americans now -- have little choice about where they can obtain their food.

I know. Still, every small action helps. It's going to be an extended process, anyhow, the changes we are facing. Urban environments like we experience now will have to radically alter for us to live in a sustainable manner. Hopefully, the conversations we engage in with one another will help us sort through emotion (especially the hopelessness that classism pushes onto all of us) and enable us to exercise leadership where we can.

Sue Sturgis writing for Facing South, the online magazine of the Institute for Southern Studies, this week published a sterling piece of journalism: Swine flu genes traced to North Carolina factory farm. It's a long and compelling read, but I'll excerpt the beginning here for you:

'Writing about swine flu last week, we observed that massive hog farms like those clustered near the outbreak's epicenter in the Mexican state of Veracruz "can act as a vector for environmental injustice," and pointed to studies done in North Carolina -- the nation's second-biggest producer of hogs after Iowa -- that found such farms put nearby residents at risk of serious health problems and tend to be concentrated in communities with high poverty rates and a high percentage of racial minorities.

'As it turns out, there's a more direct connection between the current swine flu outbreak and North Carolina: Scientists working to understand the genetic makeup of the H1N1 virus that causes the disease have linked it to a virus behind a 1998 swine flu outbreak at an industrial hog farm in Sampson County, North Carolina's leading hog producer.'

Read the whole thing as an act of education and preparation. As Tristero concludes in one of his many excellent posts at Hullaballoo on the swine flu, it is "cause to investigate carefully and thoroughly how and where this virus originated and evolved."

(Hat-tip to Mike Finnegan doing Mike's Blog Roundup for Crooks and Liars, who brought us the link to the Facing South story. Also, hugs to Beandog for sending me the graphic used in this post.)