Apr 27, 2009

Who's touching these monkeys pigs?

I was at IHOP yesterday with my friends Maggie and Rachel. As soon as we were finished, my phone rang. It was my father, with a dire warning regarding this swine flu outbreak: eight cases in the U.S. and dozens of deaths in Mexico (since then the numbers have gone to 20 and 103 - but still no deaths in the U.S.). I found myself intensely glad that my father hadn't called until after I'd finished my Pork 'n' Eggs.

Mmmmm, potentially contaminated meat.

Joking aside, the idea of animal-to-human disease transmission is kind of terrifying. The most famous cases are probably mad cow disease (from eating the brain or spinal cord of infected cattle) and avian flu (from direct contact with infected birds or their droppings). Since I don't eat beef and am not a poultry farmer, I felt relatively safe from those particular outbreaks. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control website, there have been documented cases of swine flu passing between humans. That's part of the reason the World Health Organization has declared this swine flu outbreak in North America to be 'a public health emergency of international concern.' In other words, "Don't freak out or anything, but this could become a pandemic."

So what's a girl to do - hole up in a bunker to wait out the zombie porcine apocalypse? My dad says that's not necessary... and as a veterinary microbiologist, he should know. Basically, he told me to pretend like it's flu season - wash my hands, take my vitamins, and get plenty of rest. On the plus side, staying warm in this 90-degree heat wave shouldn't be a problem. And at the first sign of sniffles (actually, fever or cough), I'm to report to my doctor ASAP for examination and respiratory swabbing (where they rub long Q-tip along the back of your throat until you gag a little bit). Yay.

The good news is that standard antivirals work well against this disease. While the common flu virus is resistant to such medications, this strain is actually a "triple assortment" - a recombinant virus containing DNA from avian, swine and human influenza. Science fact is always stranger that science fiction. Still, I'm on board with President Obama - we shouldn't panic. But hopefully, once the dust settles, we can take a look at why over 100 people in Mexico died from the flu.

--

P.S. I'm just kidding about the contaminated meat - you can't get swine flu from eating pork. Also, the title of this post is from the song Think About It by Flight of the Conchords:
"There's people on the street getting diseases from monkeys.
Yeah, that's what I said - they're getting diseases from monkeys.
Now there's junkies with monkey disease...
Who's touching these monkeys? Please,
Leave these poor sick monkeys alone -
They've got problems enough as it is!"

2 comments:

outdoorchica said...

Oh man... whose fault is swine flu? The immigrants, of course!!!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/28/swine-flu-conservatives-b_n_192212.html

Featuring my favorite tongue-in-cheek comment:

The Mezzicans are taking over the WORLD, I tell you! THE WORLD! Soon you'll have to push 2 for English and all sandwiches will be replaced with tacos and the only lousy cheap beer will be Corona and the United States will turn into Venezuela. The end.

Monkey Sri said...

Why am I not surprised? Terribly disappointed at the meanness of the human spirit, but not surprised.