At just the wrong time, the swine influenza virus (SIV) or swine flu is hitting the world economy. The Mexican tourist industry and the entire pork industry are reeling at the impact of this latest outbreak. Usual symptoms of swine flu are high fever, coughing and sneezing in confined spaces like subways and airplanes, and squealing like a pig.
Many countries are imposing travel restrictions, such as having to ride horseback, and in some parts of the world they are handing out surgical masks in an attempt to stop contamination. Unfortunately the pigs are unlikely to wear the masks, and in fact, are more likely to eat them.
The World Health Organization raised its global alert level on the spreading swine flu virus Monday, but stopped short of declaring a global emergency - even as the U.S. said it was acting as if the outbreak would grow into a full pandemic.
"At this time, containment is not a feasible option," as the virus has already spread to several other countries, said WHO Assistant Director-General Keiji Fukuda.
The United States advised Americans against most travel to Mexico and to avoid speaking in Spanish for the time being. In Canada, the entire breakfast industry is in turmoil over the risk of eating bacon or eggs. "What with bird flu and swine flu, all we have left to serve our customers is toast and coffee," said one industry spokesman. Word is that they are scrambling to secure sources of turkey bacon as a substitute, before the public finds out.
President Barack Obama says the spread of the swine flu is a cause for concern, but "not a cause for alarm."
A 26-year-old patient in Netanya, a coastal city north of Tel Aviv in Israel, was infected but was said to have recovered fully. The man, together with his family and friends were euthanized as a precaution.
The total cases are still measured in hundreds, but they are continuing to increase, probably due to people hoarding their bacon and failing to heed the warnings. In New York, sales of BLT are down, and in Alabama, pork rinds are being removed from the shelves. If you have a bacon cheeseburger, you are advised not to eat it.
The pork farmers were the first to petition congress for an emergency bailout to help them out in this crisis. We expect it is only a matter of time for more industries affected by the pandemic to come to the trough for a handout.
On a positive note, the hotdog industry said their products contained no pork, and did not need any funds, hoping that the public will continue to remain ignorant of the source of their fabled 'mystery meat'. Equally positive is the spike in sales of surgical face masks.
WHO spokesman Peter Cordingley singled out air travel as an easy way the virus could spread, noting that the WHO estimates that up to 500,000 people are on planes at any time. "Be sure to avoid touching anyone, and wear a surgical face mask at all times. Do not eat or drink anything and only breathe when absolutely necessary. If possible fly with your head outside the window to avoid recirculated air - a major cause of the virus spreading."
China, Russia and Ukraine were among the countries banning imports of pork and pork products from Mexico and three U.S. states that have reported swine flu cases, while other countries, such as Indonesia, banned all pork imports.
If you have not done so already, be sure to get yourself a a good sub-micron surgical face mask, with virus filtration efficiency above 99%, and be especially careful to avoid people who want to shake your hand. Physical contact is a way they get it to spread so quickly.