Saturday, May 2, 2009

H1N1 Swine Flu 4U2

I have been busy remodeling the condominium that belonged to my sister, who died at the end of 2007, naming me as executor of her estate, with instructions to sell her condo, which had fallen into disrepair during the years of her declining health. In addition to executor, I am thus the contractor preparing the property for the market. For years, I have employed day labor help with real estate repairs and remodeling, the guys you see in front of Home Depot, mostly natives of countries south of Texas. I have recently come upon my best luck yet, Jose Lupe, a skilled ceramic tile craftsman, tireless at all other tasks, a valuable contributor of his experience and ideas. I am working Jose every day against a deadline that he has already bought a bus ticket to return to Mexico the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend. “My baby,” Jose explains of his seven-year-old son, has had the flu. Jose’s family lives near Vera Cruz, in a town referred to by CNN as “Ground Zero“ of the Swine Flu epidemic. Jose thinks his son is better, but he is just too worried about his family. When he goes back to Mexico at the end of the month, he does not expect he will return to the United States.

The World Health Organization is focused on whether or not to declare a global swine flu pandemic, while some scientists say that the H1N1 virus may be no worse than the average annual flu season. About 36,000 flu-related U.S. deaths occur each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A WHO medical health officer said the biggest concern is that the virus could mutate and become resistant to Tamiflu, the antiviral drug.

In Mexico, the government has revised downward its toll of suspected swine flu deaths from 176 to 101. So far, 17 countries have reported 653 cases of H1N1, and 17 Mexicans have died, including one child visiting Texas. CDC reports 68 confirmed cases of H1N1 flu in five states. Some New York students tested positive after a trip to Mexico. President Obama asked Congress for $1.5 billion to fight the flu. Mexico opened its national naval hospital to civilians. Patients crowd the waiting rooms, and on public streets many wear surgical masks, supplies of which are low. An estimated $57 million a day is lost due to the closing of Mexico City schools, theaters and other public places.

U.S. officials want to abandon the term "swine flu" for fear of confusing people into thinking they could catch it from eating pork. Of course, all of this is a public relations nightmare for the pork industry. China, Russia and Ukraine have banned imports from Mexico and parts of the U.S. In Cairo, Egypt, the only pork is raised by non-Moslems, who also have historically enjoyed the exclusive franchise for garbage collection, but all pigs reportedly have been ordered destroyed.

The infamous influenza epidemic of 1918 was the background for Katherine Anne Porter’s classic short novel Pale Horse, Pale Rider. The main characters, a newspaper woman and a soldier, discover love in the time of influenza. Porter vividly depicts the delirium of the influenza through her heroine, who survives, only to discover her lover has died of the illness, apparently caught taking care of her. Pale Horse, Pale Rider takes place in Denver, Colorado, where Porter herself lived while writing for the Rocky Mountain News, Colorado's oldest newspaper, which recently died in the current epidemic of terminal newspapers in America.

Copyright 2009 by William C. Cotter


Tina said...

There was an interesting article about Katherine Ann Porter in a recent New Yorker. She had quite a life !
As for the flu, I am not panicking but still a bit concerned as I have already bought a ticket to go to Puerto Rico for a meeting toward the end of May.

Anonymous said...

The worldwide Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 claimed 20 to 40 million deaths. It infected 28 percent of all Americans, and an estimated 675,000 Americans died of influenza during the pandemic. Better to be safe than sorry, but panic over the current swine flu outbreak is a bit premature.

lorraine said...

As the mother of a kindergarten child, I am distressed by the cavalier way the schools will shut down at the first runny nose. I am as concerned as the next mom, but I don't see the need for extremes.


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