Mexican Swine ‘Flu And Memories Of SARS

It says something about the unpredictable nature of global pandemics that while a couple of years back the next global outbreak was expected to be of avian ‘flu from China, it turns out that Mexican swine ‘flu is what we now all have to deal with. That is not to say that the Asia-Pacific region is immune. There are five suspected cases in Australia and at least 10 in New Zealand, those being schoolchildren returned from a visit to Mexico, a reminder that no disaster is more that a flight away. Airports across Asia are tightening their inspections of incoming passengers, using infrared scanners and other equipment to seek out those will elevated temperatures (Xinhua summary here). China and Indonesia are blocking South Korean pork, though there is no evidence the ‘flu can be transmitted through food. Nonetheless, China, the world’s largest pork consumer, has also banned the import of swine from Mexico and three U.S. states; the Philippines is quarantining imported swine. Everywhere memories of the SARS outbreak — and the economic damage it caused beyond even the human one — are reviving, raising hopes that the experience of that — and particularly of the mistakes made — will make it easier to deal with this latest threat.

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