Posted by: mkirschmd | May 1, 2009

Swine Flu: Seal the Borders?

140px-greatwall_large1Who would you trust for health recommendations to protect us from swine flu, politicians who play on fear or trained medical professionals?   Yes, I may harbor some bias on this agonizing question since I belong to the latter category.  Nevertheless, it seems plain that epidemiologists, who are experts in disease trends and control, should direct policy.  The public doesn’t need senators snorting on swine flu, it needs straight talk.  Here’s some swine flu news you can use.

U.S. politicians were grilling Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on her refusal to seal the Mexican border.  Our lawmakers may have been scripting some good coverage for their hometown newspapers and local news programs, but they should leave health policy to the professionals.  Every reputable medical authority here and abroad argues that border closure would perpetuate fear, cause billions of dollars of economic loss, would prevent necessary supplies from reaching nations in need and would not result in any meaningful health benefit.

They reason that this strategy would not work is because the virus has already gained a foothold throughout the world.  You can’t fence in swine flu like a farmer can round up wandering pigs and throw them into a pen.  The swine flu virus is already ‘out of the barn’.  Our efforts should be to take every prudent measure we can to contain its spread.

If you think that creating a virtual wall between us and Mexico will really help, then the following examples likely make sense to you also.

The first floor of your 2 story home is on fire.  Run upstairs and hide.  You’ll be safe there.

A pool attendant accidentally spills a toxic chemical into the deep end.  Swim in the shallow end of the pool.  You’ll be safe there.

Swine flu gaffes can be dangerous and have occurred at the highest levels of the political food chain.  Yesterday, our Vice President Biden speaking loosely on The Today Show, stated he would advise his family members to avoid air travel and public transportation.  Luckily, this ‘ham-handed’ opinion wasn’t contagious and this fire was quickly put out.

We need cold facts, not hot air.  Let’s rely upon the sober recommendations of those who are trained to advise us. But wait a minute.  Perhaps, we should give an ear to our politicians’ hysterical hype.  After all, who knows more about pork than they do?

For the real deal on swine flu and other diseases that can threaten international travelers, click on Travel Clinics of America.  I think that our politicians need this site more than you do.



  1. Lol, you said it all.

    I’ve been using my own homemade tool to watch the news media corporations and their puppet mastery techniques. I created a graph using my algorithms to show the word “swine” and the words that are related to it in it’s major context. Those are graphed out on the top graph, the bottom graph just shows articles per day that have been published about this in the media corps.

  2. Great stuff! Did you notice that one of the grillers of Napolitano arguing for border closure was Senator ‘Straight Talk’ McCain? Perhaps, one of your graphing tools could be used to to document the truthfulness of our politicians.

  3. Dr. Kirsch, I’m one of the slow ones. I wish you would make your position more obvious. I look at it this way. One spark floats into a dry hay field and starts a small fire. The fire dept can quickly put it out. They can even handle three or four. But a hundred or more is overwhelming. One contagious host affects x number of people who affetc xx more. Ten contagious hosts affects even more who affect even more yet. What’s wrong with my thinking.

  4. Aha, the article makes more sense when you read every word instead of skimming it. Thanks for your great article. I still stand by my analogies. Am I better off is somebody throws one rock at me or a handful of rocks.

  5. There’s nothing slow about your reasoning. To return to the ‘house on fire’ analogy, assume that every room in the house has small fire burning. The largest fire is in the kichen. If we seal off the kitchen (think Mexico here), then it won’t make the other rooms any safer. Sealing off a country or a city or a house only works if the disease is contained. The swine flu strategy is to minimize spread, treat the infected and to develop a vaccine.

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