Those filthy swine... The swine flu "epidemic" is only a few days old, and Big Pharma is already plotting to make a fortune. European drug maker Roche announced it was scaling up production of Tamiflu, giving a boost to its stock price and sending millions into the Roche coffers. GlaxoSmithKline, which makes the anti-flu drug Relenza, is also seeing its stock price climb, as investors hope this swine flu is the biggest thing since the bubonic plague. There's only one problem here – it's not going to happen.
You read the Daily Dose because I always give you the straight scoop, and because I'm not afraid to tell you when the mainstream has it wrong. And they have it wrong on swine flu. It won't be an epidemic – it'll barely even be a ripple. I've run medical clinics in Africa – I know what an epidemic looks like. And this isn't it. The media is blowing swine flu out of proportion so it can feed its 24-hour news cycle – the same media, mind you, that had us convinced that avian flu was going to destroy the planet a few years ago.
But here are the facts about swine flu – it has affected so few people in America that it's hardly worth discussing. There are 64 confirmed cases in America as I'm writing this – not 6,000 or even 600. There are 64. Of course, the media is fixated on the 100 or so people who have died in Mexico from the swine flu. But let me clue you into something that no one seems to be discussing – health care in Mexico is ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE. I know – I've been there more times than I can count. Disease spreads rapidly through Mexico because large areas of the country lack clean water and basic sanitation. Seeing a doctor – let alone a qualified doctor – is a luxury unavailable to most of the population. Of course the flu is killing people in Mexico – so are a lot of other diseases that are successfully treated in America. People in Mexico still die from diarrhea, for Pete's sake!
Yes, they have apparently had some cases of bad swine flu in Mexico. They've had lots of dengue fever and chagas, too, but you don't need to stay up at night worrying about it. Beating the swine flu isn't any different from beating the regular flu. Wash your hands. Avoid large crowds if you can. Get plenty of rest and fluids if you start getting sick. And don't be afraid to eat pork or any other meat, for that matter, as it's not the pigs who are getting sick. Of course, I'm not recommending you eat Mexican pork – or any food produced in Mexico, for that matter. Hopefully the tainted peppers outbreak of 2008 taught us that. But don't change your diet because of some so-called swine flu epidemic.
It's no epidemic. It's no public health catastrophe. It's good theatre – and nothing more.
William Campbell Douglass II, M.D.
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