German authorities warn of swine flu mutation risk

Germany’s federal agency for infectious diseases said on Tuesday there were signs the H1N1 swine flu virus had started to mutate and warned it could spread in the coming months in a more aggressive form…

WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said recently the virus is currently “pretty stable,” but warned it could still change into a more deadly form, perhaps mixing with the H5N1 bird flu virus circulating widely in poultry.”

Oh, man.  If swine flu and bird flu mix into a virus easily spread among people, that would really, really suck.  But, I think a lot people are just saying things to be alarmists.  I’m not ashamed to admit I am one of them.

Current stats: 5,5867 confirmed cases world-wide, and 238 deaths.

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Don’t Eat Infected Pigs

As much as I love bacon, I will not be eating any bacon that comes from a pig infected with the H1N1 virus.

The WHO states that it is “possible for flu viruses to survive the freezing process and be present in thawed meat, as well as in blood.” They are slightly more cautious than the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), which say “import bans are not required to safeguard public health because the disease is not food-borne and has not been identified in dead animal tissue.”

The director of WHO’s Department of Food Safety says that “…blood (and meat-juice) from influenza H1N1-infected pigs may potentially contain virus, but at present, this has not been established.”

After reading about dead pigs and blood and meat juices, I’m really not that hungry for bacon anymore anyways.

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Slowing Down?

The number of confirmed cases is now at 787, as the number of backlogged cases have been processed.  Mexico says the numbers have stabilized in their country.

In a new twist, Canada is reporting that a pig has caught swine flu from a person who had it.

Speaking of pigs, Egyptians have been fighting with police over the order to cull all their pigs.  Sadly, it looks like they will all be eating less delicious bacon.

Things seem to be calming down.  But as the Boston Globe reports:

“More concerning is whether the virus will return, perhaps harder, when regular influenza begins its march here. Flu season in the Southern Hemisphere is about to begin, and U.S. authorities will watch how the swine flu circulates there over the coming months as they prepare the first vaccine and then decide whether to order that large amounts of it be produced in the fall.

Even if the new virus doesn’t prove as potent as authorities feared, Besser said that doesn’t mean the U.S. and World Health Organization overreacted in racing to prevent a pandemic, or worldwide spread, of a virus never before seen.

With a new infectious disease, “you basically get one shot, you get one chance to try to reduce the impact,” Besser said. “You take a very aggressive approach and as you learn more information you can tailor your response.”

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Cheap Tickets to Mexico! Yes!

If you were delaying your awesome spring break trip to Mexico due to financial reasons, now is definitely one of the cheaper times to book them.

“If you’re paying more than $300 right now to anywhere in Mexico, you’re nuts,” said Rick Seaney, chief executive officer of ticket research firm FareCompare.com.

“The airlines are trying to fill jets after the U.S. urged skipping nonessential trips to the country hardest hit by the virus. Tour operators, cruise lines and Canada’s two largest carriers are among businesses halting Mexico air service and port calls.”

Obviously, this whole swine flu thing has been a bit of a blow to the travel industry, but so far at my job (which happens to be in the travel industry), people here are not panicking.  In fact, we are going ahead with our Cinco de Mayo party tomorrow afternoon (planned before the outbreak), but I think we may be foregoing the pig roasting (fire codes, fear of pigs).  Hopefully there will still be margaritas and general merriment despite the impending shadow looming on the travel industry.
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“…good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.”

Do Masks Help? Probably Not!

“They are not bio-chemical suits. Masks are obviously just covering one part of the body so your hands and clothes could all have the virus on and when you take them off you will infect yourself.

“However, because people are wearing a mask they will think they are protected and may go into crowded areas.

“The best advice is to wash your hands and cover your mouth when sneezing.”

Additionally, what good does killing all your pigs do?  Not much!

They are slaughtering 400,000 little piggies! Can you imagine all the bacon?!

“There is no reason to do that. It’s not a swine influenza, it’s a human influenza,” said Joseph Domenech, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation’s chief veterinary officer, told Reuters.