Aporkalypse Now: Finding the Real Swine in the Pandemic Pandemonium

For the last eight years, there has been no shortage of things to worry about: Bin Laden, Al Queda, Saddam Hussein, Anthrax, Bird Flu, Katrina, sub-prime mortgages, health care costs, gas pump prices, unemployment, stock price plunges and now we have H1N1, the non-Kosher virus formerly known as Swine Flu.

The news media is pigging out (sorry, I’ll try to contain myself) with 24/7 coverage of the potential pandemic and breathless reports that this is the new Black Death and millions could die. According to MSNBC, “H1N1 swine flu is seen as the biggest risk since H5N1 avian flu re-emerged in 2003, killing 257 people of 421 infected in 15 countries. In 1968 a “Hong Kong” flu pandemic killed about 1 million people globally, and a 1957 pandemic killed about 2 million. Seasonal flu kills 250,000 to 500,000 people in a normal year, including healthy children in rich countries.” However, as I write this, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that, only 12 people have died so far of this outbreak of H1N1.

To put all of this in further perspective, it is useful to compare these numbers to the annual number of deaths from other causes. According to WHO:

  • 1 million people die from malaria each year
  • 2 million from AIDS
  • 2 million from air pollution
  • 7.4 million from cancer
  • 17.5 million from cardiovascular disease
  • 1.6 million from tuberculosis

In other words, we KNOW that 31.5 million people will die each year from causes that in large part could be prevented, but 7 deaths a pandemic makes? Have we, as Simon Jenkins suggests in the Guardian all gone demented? Perhaps. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that WHO knows what it is talking about and that a lot of people could get sick from this virus, the question then becomes whether it is the virus we should fear or our ability to react to it.

Like any other disease, the first question should always be what is causing it and how can we prevent it, not the pharmaceutical industry driven approach of how can we (profitably) treat it with drugs such as Tamiflu, which as I noted during the bird flu scare is made by a company in which former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield has a significant financial stake.

Another critical point is that unlike birds that can fly pretty much anywhere, human and pig interaction is for the most part limited to farms, especially factory farms and circumstantial evidence indicates that this outbreak may have originated at a Smithfield Foods facility in Perote, Mexico. Grist reports that, “Smithfield operates massive hog-raising operations Perote, Mexico, in the state of Vera Cruz, where the outbreak originated. The operations, grouped under a Smithfield subsidiary called Granjas Carroll, raise 950,000 hogs per year.” According to Grist, 30% of the population living near the plant have become ill with flu-like symptoms which they believe is due contamination from the hog factory.

But as Narco News points out, the real culprit in swine flu may be NAFTA which went into effect the same year that Smithfield opened its Mexican facility in the aftermath of being hit with huge fines for environmental pollution in the U.S., “The so-called “swine flu” exploded because an environmental disaster simply moved to Mexico where environmental and worker safety laws, if they exist, are not enforced against powerful multinational corporations.”

The issue of whether agri-business run factory farms are the source of the problem has been all but ignored by the U.S. media. Instead we are being told to stay home if sick and seek medical care if really sick. Nice advice presuming you have paid sick leave benefits and health insurance. And even for those able to seek medical care, there are real questions about the adequacy of whether our problem-plagued healthcare infrastructure to handle a massive additional medical incident. As John Nichols points out, we need to reinstate funding for pandemic response; disaster preparedness and infrastructure maintenance aren’t luxuries, they are a necessity, something we surely should have learned from Hurricane Katrina.

So while we need to take this threat seriously, we need to do so in the context of the many existing health pandemics that already exist, we need to take steps to insure that our healthcare system itself is healthy and we need to address the root causes of what allowed the conditions in which the H1N1 virus manifested and take the necessary steps to correct policies that endanger public health.

Lucinda Marshall is a feminist artist, writer and activist. She is the Founder of the Feminist Peace Network. Her work has been published in numerous publications in the US and abroad. She also blogs at WIMN Online and writes a monthly column for the Louisville Eccentric Observer. Read other articles by Lucinda, or visit Lucinda's website.

12 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Carol said on May 2nd, 2009 at 3:34pm #

    I think people got so crazy because the disease originated in Mexico, and the media get hysterical over anything relating to Mexico.

  2. Nikki Craft said on May 2nd, 2009 at 8:19pm #

    Lucinda wrote: “30% of the population living near the plant have become ill with flu-like symptoms which they believe is due contamination from the hog factory”

    30 percent of the human population living around Smithfield have become ill with flu-like symptoms? And that’s enough for me. Thanks for writing about this Lucinda. You document that besides working to improve human conditions and public safety we also need to work towards the same safety for animals and to close down factory farms where animals live in hellish conditions.

  3. john andrews said on May 2nd, 2009 at 11:43pm #

    History will probably eventually prove that these ‘pandemics’ are no more than distractions deliberately created by our ‘leaders’ to maintain us in a state of permanent terror (and no doubt pay back a few campaign donations to big pharma).

    What makes this one particularly cycnical is its relative harmlessness. I wouldn’t mind betting that more people have been killed over the last few weeks by lightning strikes or eating peanuts than swine-flu.

  4. joedepr said on May 3rd, 2009 at 4:48am #

    excelente artículo.

  5. denk said on May 3rd, 2009 at 10:17am #

    “Hit them with fear on Monday and fear on Tuesday and fear every other day of the week. Don’t let up. Make the fear vectors come from various directions.

    If AIDS came along now, instead of 20 years ago, you could put the whole planet under quarantine”

  6. rg the lg said on May 3rd, 2009 at 6:15pm #

    So, the local school district is mobilizing:
    hand cleaner in every classroom
    janitors washing every desk once a day
    letters to parents
    discussions in classrooms led by students from the EMT
    training course on how to ‘correctly’ wash you hands

    And the drum pounds on in daily announcements … and the students?

    Wise beyond anything their parents could ever think of … are blithely ignoring the whole soap opera … the high school seniors were in third grade during the alleged debacle of 9/11 and have been raised on a steady out-pouring of one more alleged panic.

    And we, oh so wise adults, wonder why they still ignore us and go on procreating … 9.5% of those same graduates are soon to be mothers! Almost 19% of the girls in the senior class!

    So, which is the pandemic?

    Too many people f—ing their brains loose making more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more … people to overpopulate an already over populated planet. Do we react to that real threat? No … we go on making more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more …

    And someone said I am stooging for Exxon-Mobile …

    Actually, how about enforced sterilization?

    Draconian … but maybe a solution of sorts?
    Nah … it is more fun to turn a woman into a shrieking maniac … sweating and bleeding and enduring massive pain … than it is to refrain. And the beat goes on …

    RG the LG

  7. denk said on May 3rd, 2009 at 7:33pm #

    population manipulation ?
    depopulation ?
    diversion tactics ?
    biowarfare ?
    dry run for the “big one” that they keep promising to hit us one day ?

  8. kalidas said on May 3rd, 2009 at 10:15pm #

    One thing is 100% for sure.
    “We all got it coming kid.”

  9. denk said on May 3rd, 2009 at 11:37pm #

    Swine flu alert clears old stock of Tamiflu

  10. denk said on May 3rd, 2009 at 11:47pm #

    is rummy still on board ?

  11. Kayla M. said on August 12th, 2009 at 10:36am #

    This thing is a joke. There are even people making cakes in celebration of the swine flu: http://apocalypsecakes.wordpress.com/2009/06/14/leviticus-i-told-you-so-aporkalypse-pie/

  12. mary said on August 12th, 2009 at 11:51am #

    There’s always the old ram’s horn remedy.


    Mad or what?