In fact, when the World Health Organization announced that the relatively mild form of the flu that's now going around is probably going to spread far enough and fast past enough to be labeled a "pandemic", I actually saw this as a hopeful sign. In 1918, most of the people who contracted the mild form of the disease that circulated in the spring of that year acquired partial or complete immunity to the more lethal mutation of the virus that started circulating in the fall, but travel was slower and less common than it is now, so the majority of the world's population was never exposed to it. And it looks to me like politicians in almost every country except Mexico have decided to treat the spread of the mild form of the present disease with "benign neglect", for this very reason. Of course, neither the politicians nor the medical experts who advise them are willing to admit this publicly, but the fact that travel restrictions have been mostly token gestures so far is impressive de facto evidence that they have quietly adopted the "backfire" policy that's so effective in combatting wild forest and grass fires.
However, on May Third, I started reading breaking news articles that made me consider changing my mind. There seemed to be good scientific evidence that some pigs in Canada had caught the disease from the farmer tending them, who had caught the mild form of it during a recent trip to Mexico. This caused me to post the following message on my Yuku community at 05/03/09 07:59:21:
Here's a news article that made the headlines on the Yahoo Home Page this morning, and might explain why Muu and I got flashes weeks ago about a possible crash on the Commodities Market. If the rumors mentioned here are true, the term "Pig Plague" will start being used seriously instead of facetitiously, and anyone with a porcine pet might start dreading that "knock at the door". If the disease is indeed spreading from humans to pigs, then mass slaughters of swine like the recent ones in Egypt will become universal, and also perfectly reasonable, because the spread could easily work both ways, which would greatly increase the mutation rate of the virus. And of course the spread of more lethal forms of the disease are all we really have to fear from the disease right now, since the present form seems to have an extremely low mortality rate."
One of the community members replied, "I am trying to evision a world without porkchops" and another responded "....that would only happen if you traveled or lived in Egypt today."
My reply was, "That's true TODAY, but it's beginning to look like the story I cited above is based on fact, and if the disease is indeed passing back and forth between pigs and people, this GREATLY increases the chance of another 1918-type Swine Flu epidemic. Anyway here's a link to another article with more info that's definitely NOT reassuring:" This was followed by an excerpt from another news article with more information about the Canadian incident of pigs catching the 2009 Swine Flu from a human being.
And after thinking over these postings for a few days, I'm even MORE frightened. I know enough about genetics and the evolutionary process to realize that there's a reasonable probability that if the "Pig Plague" starts hopping back and forth reasonably freely between swine and human beings, the result could be a lethal flu virus that people who had recovered from or been vaccinated against the present mild form of the disease would NOT have immunity to. Yes, of course, the evolution of the virus in such a direction is a matter of pure chance, but each jump of the organism from one species to the other provides a fresh opportunity for human and porcine DNA to mix, and every roll of these particular dice presents a chance for a really nasty mutation to occur. And even worse, this genetic situation could provide cover for inserting a virus created in some germ-warfare lab into the mix under circumstances where it would be very difficult to figure out who did it.
I'm still not very frightened by the idea of the present virus mutating the same amount the 1918 virus mutated, for the reason I gave at the beginning of this article, but I am EXTREMELY apprehensive about a more extreme mutation occurring .... and it looks like the probability of this occurring has just increased significantly. So the next question to ask is, "What can be done about this?" Obviously, the "Egyptian Solution" -- slaughter ALL swine NOW -- is far and away the best precaution any country can take against such a mutation occurring on their turf, but this is probably just as useless as trying to practice censorship on the Internet. Unless all of the world's pigs are killed except some breeding stock kept in sterile isolation, the deadly mutation I'm speculating about could still occur in some obscure backwater and spread outwards from there. If this happens -- and there is ABSOLUTELY no way to predict how probable this is with the information now available -- it means the only practical defenses involve medical treatments that reduce the death rate among people who catch any kind of flu.
It looks to me like proper treatment of people who already have the present form 2009 Swin Flu reduces the mortality rate to close to zero, and I suspect that our present medical technology could also handle a virus similar to the 1918 one reasonably well. But as I say, there seems to be a significant chance that we're going to be hit by something a lot worse, and I have no idea what either governments or individuals can do to prepare for such a catastrophe. And perhaps the most ominous thought in my head right now is that I haven't yet seen one word of speculation by experts similar to what I've just mentioned. It's quite possible that there are scientific facts that render my fears unrealistic, but if so, why haven't they been mentioned yet?
I'm hoping that people who read this article can provide some reassuring information on this, but so far I've been unable to find any myself.....