Posted by: Anna Webb | April 28, 2009

Beware the Shark


Could states who rely heavily on tourism be holding back from reporting swine flu statistics? It’s entirely possible.

Today it was reported that a boy who lives downwind of a large corporate pig farm in Veracruz Province, Mexico was identified as the first person to contract the hybrid flu virus that has now spread globally. Subsequently, a door to door tax inspector then exposed an additional 300 residents to this devastating illness. She died on April 13th and the first swine flu case was identified in Mexico. (1) On April 18th they sent the first mucous sample to the CDC in Georgia in the U.S. and requested assistance in identifying this anomalous strain. According to reports, Mexico was not equipped to handle certain types of swine flu. 

Since that time reports have been flooding in and we’ve become witnesses to a spreading global pandemic. To date, cases have been confirmed in the U.S, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, the U.K. and Spain. Most, if not all, of the reported deaths are within the borders of Mexico and it seems that Mexico is ground zero for the first reported cases. All others were visitors to Mexico who, upon returning home, came down with symptoms of this hybrid flu.

This flu is not a mutation, according to reports from specialists. It is a hybrid virus containing two types of swine flu, one regular human flu and a North American flu that typically only afflicts birds. There are various factors that make this a dangerous combination. First, it’s no longer flu season, therefore there is little medicine available to treat this blend. Second, it’s never been seen before, therefore there is not a vaccine available to prevent this virus. Third, it seems to afflict people who normally fight off the flu – those between ages 20-40.

Typically it’s the elderly and children that succomb to the vicious symptoms that flu viruses create. Their immune systems are either underdeveloped or weakened. The current hybrid flu has the opposite effect, those with strong immune systems end up with the worst symptoms because their healthy immune system vigorously attacks the virus creating a “cytokine storm” in the lungs causing the victim to drown in their own fluid.

One report indicates that those with high levels of vitamin D in the body have a better chance of fighting viruses. One reason that Winter time brings flu season is that human vitamin D levels are depleted from being indoors. Vitamin D is best acquired from the Sun. Milk and other food sources provide insignificant amounts compared to the high amounts the body can produce through Sun exposure. Those with darker skin pigments require a longer exposure to the Sun to gain the amounts needed in the body than their fair skinned neighbors. Another good source of Vitamin D is cod liver oil. (2)

Of particular interest was an email I received from a friend in Colorado this morning. A coworker whose relative works at the local hospital stated that there were 4 confirmed cases there – however, there is no official media report of this as of this writing. (3) No reports are coming out of Hawaii and Florida, either. Many other states are not reporting cases. Hopefully it means there are no cases to report from these areas. But with confirmed, yet unreported, cases in Colorado and mixed messages coming out on the news, it’s hard to determine if we should wear masks and carry alcohol based hand cleanser in our pockets or go about our business and pleasurable activities as usual. (4)

Those of us who live in states with an economy driven by tourism know that many times these areas are not forthcoming with information that may scare off the “customers”. If these states are ‘sandbagging’ their confirmed flu numbers so as not to lose money, they end up losing in the long run from lost productivity and bad publicity. People don’t like to find out in hindsight that they could have avoided illness if they had all the facts.

Does anyone remember the movie Jaws? Could the economy be taking precedent over common sense? It seems prudent to take whatever precautions necessary. Until we know for sure how widespread and serious this threat is we may need to face the fact that, before we dive in, there may be a 20′ great white shark in the water.


(1) Was first victim a modern Typhoid Mary? by Guy Adams in Mexico City

(2) Influenza and Vitamin D by J.J. Cannell

Special thanks to Deborah for bringing my attention to the above articles.

(3) Colorado Has At Least One Suspected Swine Flu Case

U.S. Swine flu cases – CDC as of 4/29/2009 at 11am EDT

Thanks to TJ for the Jaws analogy 🙂


  1. You on vacation?

    Or did a shark bite you?

  2. I’ll be back today, as a matter of fact! Thanks for asking.


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