The swine flu outbreak is a serious matter, having killed about 150 people in Mexico and infected about 50 in the United States.
But while the virus has potential to morph into a pandemic – one of the most terrifying words in the English language – it isn’t even an epidemic at this point.
Caution and concern are merited, but full-bore hysteria is not.
Our government declared a national health emergency so it could release about 12 million doses of flu medications to states.
That’s a wise precaution, not cause for alarm. We wish similar efforts were under way in Mexico, where the onslaught of swine flu has not been handled as well as it should be.
As The Associated Press reported Tuesday, two weeks after the first known swine-flu death of the current outbreak, Mexico still hasn’t given medicine to families of the dead.
Our neighboring nation hasn’t determined where the outbreak started, how it spread or how to get frightened ambulance drivers to take sick people to hospitals.
“A portrait is emerging of a slow and confused response by Mexico to the gathering swine flu epidemic,” the AP reports. “And that could mean the world is flying blind into a global health storm.”
Let’s hope not. People need to be careful and follow the instructions issued by health experts: Wash your hands thoroughly and often. Avoid exposure to people who are sick. Stay out of Mexico. And if you get sick, stay home and call a doctor. Don’t share your germs with the masses.
Troops can’t stop virus
Border enforcement activists’ response to the flu outbreak has been unrealistic and counterproductive, however.
Many are calling for troops on the Mexican border, for example, as if a virus can be stopped by brute force.
It can’t. And even if it could, we would need to also shut down several of our own states as well as Canada, Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific regions, all of which now have documented cases of swine flu.
U.S. officials are responding appropriately by screening people at the Mexican border, looking for those who are ill and barring them from entry.
But commerce between Mexico and the U.S. is conducted with thousands of trucks heading in both directions.
Even if all cross-border traffic were stopped, results would be marginal at best in preventing spread of the disease, noted Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
We hope that Napolitano and President Obama will make some recommendations to the Mexican government about its handling of this outbreak.
HHS secretary is needed
We also urge the Senate to confirm Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as the new secretary of Health and Human Services.
That department has been functioning efficiently and professionally, but leadership will be essential as this swine flu outbreak runs its course.
Likewise, we reiterate our request to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to quickly find a replacement for Leesa Berens Morrison, who stepped down as director of the Arizona Department of Homeland Security.
There is much to be done to safeguard the public health, and so far our government has responded swiftly and logically to try to quell this threat.
The American people must do likewise.
Let’s save the hysteria for a pandemic or at least an epidemic, and let’s shelve the tendency toward xenophobia, recognizing that the U.S. and many other countries are battling the same threat as Mexico.
Our focus should be on staying healthy.