They say life imitates art; and lord knows, life and art are both getting spookier, literally.
Two weeks back, an episode of BBC's spy-drama Spooks, had a biological weapon scare. The storyline had a train bombed in Teheran that releases a dangerous virus. The virus creates an international scare as people in Iran and those infected in the UK start dying. The virus is transmitted from person-to-person through coughing, sneezing and merely being in contact with someone infected with the virus.
Sounds familiar?Now we hear about the swine-flu outbreak.
There are 149 dead in Mexico (The Age, Oz), there are 40 confirmed infections in the US; and the infection has spread to the United Kingdom and Spain* (Washington Post, US) as well. According to latest figures, there are 10 suspected cases (ABC News, Oz) in Queensland, Australia. All this has lead to the World Health Organisation considering raising the alert level to a higher digit. Currently, the WHO has declared it a level four flu pandemic (The Guardian, UK).
While the US, UK, Australia and Europe have declared an emergency and are warning citizens and manning airports -- Munich and Frankfurt airports are distributing swine flu informational leaflets -- the Indian government has issued a mild warning.
Before writing this post, I checked these Indian newspapers and news websites: Times of India, Hindustan Times, NDTV and IbnLive. All four sites are currently reporting wrong figures from Mexico and US. Given that all four sites have staff/editorial on night shifts, it is inexcusable. It is also silly that when there is an outbreak of global proportions, actor Feroze Khan's death has been given more prominence on at least two sites (Ibn and NDTV). The best coverage so far -- though with wrong figures -- is on Times of India, which has at least put the swine flu story on the No. 2 slot on its website.
Many people will say that since the deaths are (currently) restricted to Mexico and reported cases are in the US, UK and Spain, it is perhaps no cause for India/Indians to worry. However, the number of Indians travelling to and back from those countries has been increasing.
According to data published by Euromonitor International, the number of Indians travelling from India is set to rise by 132 % by 2011, with the US being the most preferred destination. Given that soon it will be summer vacation time and families will be planning trips: Should there not be more on the swine flu in the Indian media?
For those readers who live in Canada and the US: PLEASE take care. For those of you planning to travel, if you can change your plans, please defer. First there's AIDS, then Ebola, then the bird flu and now the swine flu. A virus that is still mutating. And we, as humans, the most susceptible targets as our immune system cannot fight the virus on its own.
PS: Just heard from a Mexican pal at uni that Mexico suffered an earthquake this morning. Apparently the joke going around in Mexico is:
What did Mexico city say to the pig flu?
Ooh, I am shaking.
Please be well. For more information, refer to the news reports/links above or check here:
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
World Health Organization
WHO Swine Influenza FAQs (pdf)
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