Mexican Enlightment

For the past week or so it has been interesting to note the different media treatments of the developing swine flu story.

It now clear that globalisation and easy air travel means there are almost certainly more case of the flu than we know about and in more places.

Even in New Zealand we now have 12  14 confirmed cases as of today. There is the predictable argument about whether health authorities have done their best to manage the known risks and these will continue.

One irony is that many of us learned about this online from a twitter or other source before the news media picked up the story for later in the day. Hopefully social media and other online readers are doing their own research so we can avoid the moral panic / mass hysteria that does seem to result from this type of news item. 

Its about time we used our greater information resources to fight fear with knowledge..

fear of the flu is at least as responsible for the economic disruption as the disease itself.”

There will be travel and tourism side effects for Mexico and many other countries as authorities try to balance public safety and health concerns with personal freedoms.

In reading about the background of this particular wave of the flu it seems that much of this should have been no surprise and all of the planning and scenario practice that went on a few years ago (SARS) should now be worked through.

In the US in 1976 (after the Fort Dix outbreak) around 40m people received swine flu immunizations. However the programme was called off for all sorts of reasons.

I just wonder whether vaccinating the pigs themselves might be a smarter way to break the disease mutation cycle. Seems that pigs provide the ideal conditions for viral mixing of the influenza disease strains. 

Much more recently an estimated 35 million have been treated with Tamiflu in Japan which is one of the recommended treatments.

Mass vaccinations are not popular but we can bet they are being considered in many countries. The NZ government had a stockpile equivalent to 21% of the population in 2006 during the avian flu pandemic planning.

According to some new reports

“Australia has stockpiled 8.7 million doses of Tamiflu and Relenza drugs”.

There will be public debate over how those stockpiles are used and when and there should be.  NZ information about Tamiflu is over here. Predictably that site is way out of date but there are updates over at the Ministry of Health

In the past few weeks I have been tuned in to watch a Mexican ife science entrepreneur and thinker – Juan Enriquez talk about science as the way foward from crisis. His talk called Beyond the crisis, mindboggling science and the arrival of Homo evolutis. 

“Even as mega-banks topple, Juan Enriquez says the big reboot is yet to come. But don’t look for it on your ballot — or in the stock exchange. It’ll come from science labs, and it promises keener bodies and minds. Our kids are going to be … different.”

About Juan Enriquez

Juan Enriquez thinks and writes about the profound changes that genomics and other life sciences will cause in business, technology, politics and society.

“Formerly CEO of Mexico City’s Urban Development Corporation and chief of staff for Mexico’s secretary of state, Enriquez played a role in reforming Mexico’s domestic policy and helped negotiate a cease-fire with Zapatista rebels. He is a Managing Director at Excel Medical Ventures, a life sciences venture capital firm, and the chair and CEO of Biotechonomy, a research and investment firm helping to fund new genomics firms. The Untied States of America, his latest book, looks at the forces threatening America’s future as a unified country.” From his TED bio  

Beyond the crisis, mindboggling science and the arrival of Homo evolutis. 

Juan has two other video presentations on TED that are also worth checking out.

Juan Enriquez: Decoding the future with genomics

and

Juan Enriquez: Why can’t we grow new energy?

I like the idea of good news from Mexico at a time like this. I see the NZ MOH has labelled the flu as being Mexican Swine Flu. I’d rather have some enlightenment from Mexico via Juan Enriquez.