Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine Flu Outbreak

Within the past several days, there has been an outbreak of swine flu, starting in Mexico and spreading to the US, Canada, Spain, Scotland, and Israel.

152 people have died from the flu in Mexico (the photo on the left is of Mexico City).

The World Health Organization raised the pandemic threat alert level yesterday, but the WHO also recommended against the closing of borders or imposition of travel bans. Certain European countries, however, have recommended against traveling to North America, and a number of countries are checking incoming travelers for the flu.

A number of students at a private high school in Queens have come down with the flu, and it turns out that a group of seniors there had gone to Cancun for spring break.

David Brooks writes, this morning, that this episode is testing whether the best response to global, decentralized crises is via central bureaucracies (like the WHO) or via decentralized response centers. He favors the decentralized approach:
"The decentralized approach is more credible. It is a fact of human nature that in times of crisis, people like to feel protected by one of their own. They will only trust people who share their historical experience, who understand their cultural assumptions about disease and the threat of outsiders and who have the legitimacy to make brutal choices. If some authority is going to restrict freedom, it should be somebody elected by the people, not a stranger."
217. The Times reports that the Department of Health and Human Services is lacking in senior staff because a number of Obama appointees have not yet been confirmed. Why is it taking the Senate so long to confirm people?

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