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Swine flu as market gimmick
The new type of flu, referred to as "swine flu" for the lay public, is no more dangerous for human health than any other similar virus. Meanwhile, the panic created over swine flu is a perfect way of distracting the masses from the economic downturn, a business stimulant for drug manufacturers and veterinary officials, and a formal reason to pursue protectionist policies.
What Russia's chief sanitary inspector Gennady Onishchenko refers to as "the danger of swine flu proliferation to Russia" is in fact a good formal pretext for the hysteria stepped up around a relatively ordinary condition. This flu is neither new nor "swine." It is another horror story that sells well in breaking news, just like bird flu or red mercury, and can yield profits at a time when regular businesses are seeing losses due to the tight economic situation.
Every day adds entries to the Russian government's list of countries and U.S. states and Canadian provinces whose pork is banned from Russia. Every day Russian pharmaceutical companies sent out news releases full of commercial offers aimed at fighting the "terrible disease" that has so far killed 30 people and contaminated slightly over 1,000 around the globe.
Panic in a globalized world has long become an effective financial and political tool. Shortly before the 2008 Summer Olympics in China, the so-called bird flu made all the headlines and TV news, with wide-eyed commentators predicting even the cancellation of the Games unless the epidemic subsided.
Governments and the media are well trained to exploit the human psyche's liability to forget global issues over local problems. The economic crisis has already become part of a habitual environment in which people have now lived for some time and will have to continue living for God knows how long. But swine flu is a brand-new danger.
A danger to be entirely forgotten in a while, once the world is shaken by some new economic or political changes and the number of swine flu victims begins to decrease.