Dearly loved children, is it not a sin?
To peel potatoes and throw away the skins?
For the skins feed pigs and the pigs feed you,
Dearly loved children is it not true?
Children, the elderly and even the otherwise hale and hearty, take cover. There is an ill wind that blows, a virus is on the loose, a contagion stalks the citadels of the great cities of our world, an illness stalks us all. Look closely at the sneezing stranger next to you; you could be staring at the face of death.
Hyperbole aside, the outbreak of the flu in its latest avtaar gives us all something to think about; particularly those of us who have the sniffles. Of course, this is no runny nose to be scoffed at; but while health professionals across the world scratch their heads; I am most intrigued by the subtle and not to subtle politics of the flu.
Perhaps we could start off with its name – Swine Flu. An illness allegedly originating in that most filthy of beasts – the pig. As one born in the year of the pig, I feel a grudging sort of kinship with this wallowing creature; but this is no time to wallow. It is a time for action, and action is what the world is enacting.
As you – kafila readers sit and chew the fat -Lets see what the world is up to.
Like most things that require a modicum of efficiency, the Israelis were the first off the blocks. In an example of that famous Israeli tact that makes it one of the world’s most admired countries,
Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman said the reference to pigs is offensive to both religions [Judaism and Islam] and “we should call this Mexican flu and not swine flu,” he told a news conference at a hospital in central Israel. Read the rest of the report here.
Mexico’s ambassador Frederico Salas and the Israeli envoy to Mexico Yosef Livne both lodged official complaints at the foreign ministry on Tuesday protesting at the new term. “The ambassador (Salas) said he was offended when the deputy health minister called it the Mexican flu,” a foreign ministry official told AFP.
Not to be outdone, Israel’s neighbour Egypt took matters to another level by shaking off typical Arab torpor and announcing the slaughter of approximately 400,000 swine and simultaneously putting their Christian minority in its place. After all, it isn’t often that medical science offers reinforces deeply held prejudices against pigs, pig keepers and the “unclean”. As the venerable BBC notes:
Pig-farming and consumption is concentrated in Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, estimated at 10% of the population. Many are reared in slum areas by rubbish collectors who use the pigs to dispose of organic waste.
As befits an international organisation, the WHO urged restraint – particularly in the matter of a swine genocide. the virus it appears is spread from human to human – the pigs just happen to be there that’s all! The solution, it appears, is to popularize the scientific name – which I believe is H1N1; and is a re assortment of four more commonly observed strains of the flu. So why is it called the pig flu? The Guardian reports:
Swine flu is a form of influenza that originated in pigs but can now be caught by and spread among people..Swine flu is caused by a type A influenza virus, and the new strain belongs to the most common subtype, known as H1N1. Public health experts are particularly concerned about strains like this one that have spread from pigs to humans, because the animals can act as “crucibles”, harbouring several flu viruses at once which can swap genes and become more virulent.Influenza viruses are made up of only eight genes: the new strain has six genes from a swine flu virus known to have been circulating in North America – itself a mixture of human, pig and avian flu viruses – and two from a swine virus found in European and Asian pigs.
Despite repeated assurances by the CDC and the WHO that properly processed pork products bore no risk, Russia and Chine were not convinced, and swiftly moved to ban the import of offending flesh. After resolution 1141, who can blame them for taking assurances by international organisations with a pinch of salt? Proving that pre-emption is not the prerogative of a few, some reports suggest that the Chinese took to yanking Mexicans off the streets of Shanghai and frog-marching them straight into quarantine. Once more the Mexicans were not amused.
And in the US, that old bogey raised its head. After all we all know who brings disease into this pristine land of plenty. THE IMMIGRANTS!
As MSNBC reports:
“No contact anywhere with an illegal alien!” conservative talk show host Michael Savage advised his U.S. listeners this week on how to avoid the swine flu. “And that starts in the restaurants” where he said, you “don’t know if they wipe their behinds with their hands!”
Presumably, the Mexicans will not be amused.