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  • Swine Flu: Pandemic or Hyperbole?

May 2009
Charles T. Troy

By the time you read this, the tale of the swine flu virus likely will have played out, and we will know for sure whether it was a threat comparable to the strain that killed tens of millions of people during the period 1918 to 1919.

There is no doubt about the seriousness of this virus, but the new strain perhaps was unfairly proclaimed a potential pandemic right from the outset by a press corps eager to fill print pages and endless hours of cable TV news. Since the initial outburst, it has moved closer to looking like a more serious threat, as more cases have been reported from various spots across the globe.

At this point, experts are faced with the question of why it is so fatal in Mexico, but has not yet proved so in the US. Only time will provide the answer to that and other questions of its origin and means of transmission.

Then there is the question of a vaccine. Many people get flu shots in the fall, but those shots will not protect against this new strain, which is believed to be a combination of viruses. And any new vaccine could be months away; large populations could be vulnerable until one is produced and distributed.

In Washington, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has tried to assure Americans that health officials are taking all appropriate steps to minimize the impact of the outbreak. Napolitano said roughly 12 million doses of the drug Tamiflu will be moved from a federal stockpile to places where states can quickly get their share if they decide they need it.

But it turns out that the swine flu scare could not have come at a worse time. The faltering global economy does not need another disincentive. With shops and schools closing, travel curbed and whole populations being urged to stay inside and avoid contact with others, whatever recovery had just begun to find its legs has had them pulled out from under it.

Solutions to the potential effects of this flu on both public health and the economy will no doubt require the combined resources of the biophotonics industry and government health agencies.

Only time will tell of the swine flu’s severity and our ability to contain or cope with it.

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