Swine Flu, Pandemics and Capitalism
The headlines have been apocalyptic – a new outbreak of swine flu is in danger of engulfing the world. There are indeed reasons for concern. Normal seasonal type-A influenzas kill as many one million people a year globally. Even a modest increase in virulence, especially if combined with high incidence, could cause huge problems across the world. The most lethal flu outbreak to date was in 1918-19. It killed more than 2 percent of humanity (40 to 50 million people) in a single winter. The development of a swine flu that can be passed between humans was predictable. Influenza constantly changes and mutates to create new strains. There have already been several incidents of flu strains jumping species and unleashing a virulent pandemic. Both the 1957 and 1968 flu pandemics are believed to have originated from the mixing of bird and human viruses inside pigs. Concentrated poverty is one of the most important issues in what happens to a flu outbreak – how it is spread and who it hits.