Thursday, April 30, 2009

French germophobia rejected: so far

Nikola Tesla, Michael Jackson, and Cameron Diaz are among the most famous people who have suffered from germophobia.

The French nation has just collectively joined the group. Yes, it is a very paradoxical decision. ;-) We are talking about the same French nation that has invented (or re-invented, following Kamasutra) exercises such as one on the picture above. When I was in Paris a year ago, I had to kiss 38 women a day in average. :-)

Nevertheless, France has asked the EU to suspend flights between Mexico and the whole EU. Wow. The Czech EU presidency and European Commission thankfully rejected these calls. That's good news because the French minister of health, Ms Roselyne Bachelot, despite being a doctor of pharmacy, is demonstrably an epidemiological crackpot.

By the way, a crew of Air France managed to impose the ban on their aircraft: these striking sissies have simply rejected to fly to Mexico. ;-)

But let's return to the big picture.

One simply can't quite isolate Europe away from Central America. Some "essential flights" would have to occur, anyway. Moreover, the swine flu virus has already spread to Europe, too. It is impossible to effectively determine who is infected because many infected people don't exhibit any symptoms. As Sheldon Cooper (who is a germaphobe himself) correctly emphasized in The Big Bang Theory, if the symptoms had always accompanied the disease, the disease would have already died a long time ago.

Most importantly, it seems very likely that non-Hispanic people are pretty much unaffected by the virus. All casualties, including one on the U.S. territory, have been (genetically) Mexicans. We can speculate whether this special sensitivity of the Mexicans is purely genetic in origin or whether it is affected by their reduced immunity due to their less luxurious lifestyle or polluted environment: my guess is the former.

If you think that the main reason is the habit of Mexicans not to visit conventional doctors, choose either "culture and lifestyle" if you think that the reason behind their behavior is psychological or "poverty" if it is economic. People who agree with Orson that the reason is that the Mexicans are not vaccinated against similar flus, unlike the Yankees, choose "reduced immunity due to poverty". But I assure you that other, richer nations are not obsessed with flu vaccines, either.

But trying to isolate our continent from a country that is as important as Mexico would be far too expensive. An influenza virus managed to mutate and it is destined to kill a few more people. The virus deserves it for its achievements. The idea that we can and we should save absolutely everyone, whatever it costs, is a proof of germophobia by itself.

We must simply deal with it. So far, the disease is far less important for the public health (and even for the number of people who die) than ordinary flu. It may stay so. Anti-viral drugs may be effective and a vaccine may be found, too. At any rate, attempts to isolate whole countries could only delay the propagation of the virus by a few weeks - while the costs would be huge.

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