Daily Archives: July 31, 2009

Just the facts, ma’am

“Just the facts, ma’am.”
–Sgt. Joe Friday, Dragnet

On June 11th of this year, Dr. Margaret Chan of the WHO (World Health Organization) announced that the H1N1 influenza virus (the virus formerly known as Swine Flu) had reached the pandemic stage. The actual announcement – “The world is now at the start of the 2009 influenza pandemic.” – is fairly succinct and is a passing sentence in a larger declaration with virtually the same title issued by Dr. Chan and the WHO. I don’t recall seeing any headline or byline of merit in the mainstream media, certainly not at the level poor Farrah Fawcett achieved in Michael Jackson’s posthumous shadow.

While the flu has so far been fairly benign in its effects, it shouldn’t be mistaken for the medical equivalent of Y2K. The potential consequences could be very significant, and there have been enough changes in its progression that the WHO has decided to alter its data collection procedures; it’s becoming increasingly difficult for local and national governments or agencies to collect or report their data.

That we’re able to follow both the spread of the disease and the global developments undertaken to fight and/or cure it is intriguing.  Projecting ahead, it will be interesting to see what will be written about swine flu (there, I said it) when the research has finished and it has run its course.  Historically both a disease and its cause–as independent phenomena–have proved elusive to those investigating it.  The literature can be both informative and engaging, opening up centuries of discovery, politics, history and sometimes the inevitable  “I knew that” moment (insert sound of hand smacking forehead here).  After reading some of the histories I can only marvel at the promise of the times we live in.  In other instances, I felt more like a moviegoer, squirming in my seat, trying to will Harry and Hermione from going “there” or doing “that” because the consequences are so obvious…now.

Available for checkout, some readings on the subject:

–Richard

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