Saturday, May 02, 2009

Swine Flu: Ralph the Pig Speaks

'People in the town of Chipping Sodbury were shocked to learn today that a member of their community had swine flu.' Guardian.
Nothing much happens in Chipping Sodbury, you see, they're easily shocked. When a Chipping Sod gets a mild form of flu, they're convulsed.
Meanwhile, the search for The Smoking Pig continues. He called me yesterday. His name is Ralph and he's on the lam in South Dakota. 'I'm with Willie Nelson,' he said, 'they can take me back to Texas but they won't take me back alive.' I invited him over to Palm Springs, it's pretty quiet here except for a closed school in Indio. But he likes seafood and, as my wife put it, 'You can't get a decent prawn in the desert.'
There is, on the face of it, no reason whatsoever to be concerned about this flu. It's killing people at a considerably slower rate than your average winter mutant. I know that the big fear is that once a virus jumps from animals to people it can mutate into something truly nasty and wipe out millions. Scientists and politicians, therefore, cannot afford to look anything but grave. Also, here in the US, the health system works by generating the maximum amount of anxiety which, in turn, has created the most over-medicated population on earth. If I believed any of the pill and potion ads on TV, I would be eating and sleeping at the pharmacy. I offered a cup of coffee to a guy fixing the toilet in this house yesterday. 'Can't,' he said, 'too much medication.' He looked damned healthy to me. Meanwhile, I heard Rush Limbaugh, the leader of the Republican Party, quoting 'the London Times' which said, apparently, the virus was not airborne but carried by droplets. This, he crowed, disproves that all this nonsense about catching it on buses and trains and wearing masks. Poor Rush hasn't grasped the concept of the aerosol and, anyway, since he believes that the present health system is a free market, why isn't he saying it's all terrible and flogging Tamiflu from the back of his Chevy Malibu? (He was flogging that car the last time I was here.) Oh, hang on, Tamiflu was developed in the US but is now sold by Roche, a Swiss firm, so it's probably unAmerican.
Anyway, the real pandemic here is hysterical hypochondria. Or, as Ralph puts it, 'Get a friggin' life.'


  1. Listen mush, as one of the unfortunates who caught Asian flu let me tell you, there may be some snot out there with your name on it, nothing wrong with hypochondria, keeps the chemists warm in winter.
    The swine flu will huff and puff and blow your house down

    Oh, and don't bring the bugger back here with you, we have enough tribulations as it is.

  2. You may get a runny nose but so long as you don't come out in rashers, it won't be swine flu.


  3. I know that the big fear is that once a virus jumps from animals to people it can mutate into something truly nasty and wipe out millions.Exactly, sir. Emergence is an evolutionary process. To intervene in that process requires tight surveillance and a willingness to react decisively to a previously unseen influenza strain that succeeds at person-to-person transmission.

    Bryan Appleyard's considered judgment that, today, it looks like overkill testifies to its effectiveness.

  4. I wonder is there a lack of confidence amongst those in authority.
    There was a time when the phrase "there is no concern for alarm" was the standard reponse to many a crisis.
    We all slept soundly in our beds,knowing the experts had things under control.

    Are things so complex these days that nobody can speak with any certainty or authority.No and that's what I find worrying.

    Instead the the seriousness of every threat imaginable is comphrehensively overstated,afterall if wer'e wrong it won't matter.
    If only a official health spokesman would come out and say;its alright folks its only the flu,we would advise the public to go about their business as usual.Leave the rest to the appropriate authorities.

    I mean what official recommendations did I get in an e-mail? recently.Make sure you wash your hands and put your hand in front of your mouth when you sneeze.

    Are we all so stupid that we don't know how to act during terrorist attacks,anticipated bad weather and possible pandemics.

    Isn't this world paranoid enough without the uninspiring echoes of the eternally vigilant spouting experts we get today.

    Progress is a worrying thought

  5. Mark, you apply hammerhead to nail head with remarkable accuracy, watching Surly-Ann Donaldson the other evening it occurred to me, in mid prattle, that this bloke ain't got a clue what he's prattling on about, was on full auto pilot and talking twaddle. I suppose though, that is how he got the job in the first place.

    There's no better expert than a government expert.

  6. According to the Amisian classification I follow in today's Observer, Bryan, your reaction to the flu story shows you are a berk. Don't take it personally, it is a technical term rather than a term of abuse.

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  8. "here in the US, the health system works by generating the maximum amount of anxiety"

    Is it possible that the climate science system works exactly the same way?

    Amis' distinction sounds useful. But rather than being typecast what's seems to me vital is to assess the relative cost of taking a particular scare seriously.

    The worldwide ban on DDT, it now seems clear, cost over 30 million lives from malaria, most of them children, before the World Health Organization finally blew the whistle in 2006. How many environmentalists who argued from the comfort of places where malaria had already been eradicated that DDT was too dangerous for use of any kind, from the 60s onwards, have you seen on the telly since in tears of remorse? As for the man on the make from Bayer whose email was leaked to the Financial Times in 2005 (penultimate paragraph of this article in The Nation) ... well, you decide how clean all the hands among the corporatists of the EU were with millions of the voiceless poor in peril.

    Taking a default position on all possible scares - alarmist or reactionary - is foolish. Not to see and weep for the dreadful effects of some instances of alarmism is a lot worse.

  9. Agreed with regard to the hysteria. Precautions for swine flu are really no different than those for influenza. Wash your hands a lot, don't put yourself in situations in which you'll be in close contact with infected people, and you'll be just fine.. Rather than spreading information about how devastating swine flu is, the media should be telling people how to prevent flu from spreading - then people would realize it's really not a big deal.

  10. The good news from clinical trials of H1N1 swine flu vaccine is that healthy adults need only one dose of vaccine for protection.More Information.....

  11. Well said..
    wow gold