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Swine Flu Update

May 4, 2009

The Economist, sober and measured as usual, has an update on the global progress of the swine flu, as well as a review of international reaction to it. An excerpt, discussing some of the less reasoned responses:

Given all this and the accompanying media frenzy, it is perhaps not surprising that there has been overreaction in some quarters—and, rather cruelly, a backlash against Mexico itself. Egypt declared that it would slaughter all domestic pigs, a move which angered the country’s Coptic Christians who raise most of that swine; when they protested, the authorities pelted them with tear gas. Russia and China imposed bans on imports of North American pork. This was roundly denounced by both health experts, who have noisily insisted that eating cooked pork poses no health risk whatsoever, and trade experts, who argue that the ban may violate international accords.

The overreaction extends to an unfair vilification of Mexico, which in fact has handled this outbreak in a laudably transparent and competent manner. In America, some commentators blamed Mexican illegal immigrants for the outbreak and demanded the closing of the border. Though the WHO has made clear that travel bans will not be effective in containing this virus, a number of countries have curtailed flights from Mexico and singled out Mexican travellers for special attention or quarantine upon arrival. So extreme has been the reported harassment in China that Mexican diplomats have lodged formal protests with the authorities there.

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