The new swine flu: this is not a joke

The outbreak even hit Mexico's beloved national pastime — two sold-out
football matches Sunday — Pumas vs. Chivas and America vs. Tecos —
will be played in empty stadiums to prevent the spread of the disease.

Here is the story.  Some people are puzzled as to how human, pig, and bird strains of the flu have mixed together, but if you have spent any time in rural Mexico the answer is obvious: these creatures all live together in close quarters.

Here is my earlier study on how an economist should think about avian flu and pandemics.  You can follow the latest developments at Recombinomics and Crofsblog (the best blogroll on the topic) and Effect Measure.  Revere, an experienced professional, puts it simply:

There is ample room for serious worry. WHO is convening its expert
panel under the International Health Regulations to determine if the
pandemic threat level should be increased from phase 3 to phase 4. In
our view, this isn't even a close call. We are in phase 4 and if WHO
doesn't call it they risk being considered irrelevant and without

I will repeat the general point that public health is one of the best ways to spend government money, as it is (often, not always) a true public good.


evolution will be televised

If you are interested in maximising people's healthy life spans, the best way to spend public money has always been public health. That produces better health for everybody; and there is no evidence of falling marginal effectiveness of spending.

The second best has always been to givecpeole more time in education. That helps the young, with some likely but unproven spill over to their elders.

The third best is increasing spending (public or private) on medical care of patients. Nowadays this sems ot have some benefits from innovation and the diffusion of innovation, but otherwise suffers from clear declining (sometimes negative) marginal effectiveness.

Genocide and Pandemics: Excellent tools to mitigate the causes of climate change.

That current NYT article on this epidemic is fascinating and very grim. Observation of high mortality among healthy people is a particularly bad sign.

If a pandemic does occur, I wonder which sectors will be "countercyclical," in light of both the financial crisis AND a flu pandemic.

Online multiplayer games (World of Warcraft, etc). Inexpensive escapism from harsh real-world financial realities, plus social interaction without physical contact. Given that the pandemic is likely to be especially severe in area of high population density, Chinese companies like Tencent and Shanda Interactive should benefit. Second Life might get more users.

Companies like Cisco that offer telepresence products as an alternative to business travel and in-person meetings should also benefit.

Phone companies in general should also benefit as people talk more and meet less. Internet service providers may also benefit as telework increases and people spend more time online.

Social networking sites like Facebook, realtime keep-in-touch services like Twitter, Apple iPhones for people who must go out but want to remain glued to sources of information, etc.

Airlines, sports teams, restaurant chains, Ticketmaster, not so much.

However, the overall drop in spending from enforced lessening of economic activity and, conceivably, a slight population drop will mimic and amplify the causes of the already existing economic crisis. So all companies would surely take a hit, but a few (like the online game companies) would benefit in the long run. The pandemic would be, for them, something similar to what the Gulf War was for CNN: a watershed event that gives them a permanent boost to accelerate an already existing trend.

It must be God's sense of humour that arranged that this pestilence's arrival should coincide with the Northern Hemisphere hay fever season that has so many of us sneezing.

There are plenty of chickens in the extremely urbanized San Fernando Valley, typically kept by Mexican immigrants. I don't know how many people keep pigs in their backyards, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were some.


I got your point. Compared to some alternatives, 1976 is not that bad.


this is definitely scary stuff, sounds a lot more serious than the peanut butter salmonella scares at the very least

what does the artisan food movement have to do with this thread or this site?

and not to put words (or food) in tyler's mouth, i doubt he is a foodie in that sense. from what i've read he's just as likely to become seriously ill eating at an unnamed ethnic hole in the wall as at a sanctimonious slow food event.

I'm surprised health officials are not talking about the extreme level of pollution in Mexico City, which may be the reason why the people there are developing respiratory complications (and dying) with this flu and people in the U.S. are not!? Is it due to a need for "polite" political etiquette?
Even Anthony Faucci (I don't remember how to spell his name), a man whom I have admired and respected for decades for his work re: AIDS at the CDC, when asked on the Diane Rehm show on NPR this a.m., "Why are people in Mexico City dying, while in the U.S., there have been no deaths?", Mr. Faucci said they did not know why. He didn't even hint at the intense pollution as a possible factor.
If you've ever been to MC, you have experienced the invasive pollution there. I believe I once heard that it is the most polluted city in the world. Surely this would have an impact on the severity of an illness with potential respiratory complications!?
What a topic to begin blogging with! This is my 1st ever blog! I just joined the world of computers, other than typing papers in grad school, 15 years ago! Wish me future luck in this endeavor!

I will repeat the general point that public health is one of the best ways to spend government money, as it is (often, not always) a true public good.

Here is some info and stocks about swine flu!

There is one major difference between the old Swine Flu and the new one, otherwise known as H1N1. The new swine flu virus was actually patented - that is, it is owned by companies. It's also genetically modified. That makes a big difference.

While it is dreamy to pretend that our government and drug companies are working for our best interests - that is a delusional fantasy.

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