New Scientist says Travel Bans don’t work for flu

An interesting article today from New Scientist on why Travel Bans don’t work to prevent the spread of a pandemic.

“There is no real sense in applying strict travel restrictions especially at this stage. It’s not going to help,” says Alessandro Vespignani, a computer scientist at the University of Indiana in Bloomington, whose team is also trying to predict the spread of the current outbreak.

The World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee also took this position at a meeting on Monday: “WHO does not recommend closing of borders and does not recommend restriction of travel,” said Keiji Fukuda, assistant director general for health security and environment.

Modellers have also attempted to measure the economic cost of widespread travel bans in response to pandemic flu. In 2007, a team led by Joshua Epstein of the Brookings Institution in New York estimated that a 95 per cent reduction in air travel in the US could cost about $100 billion per year, or a little less than 1 per cent of the US gross national product (PLoS-ONE, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0000401 ).

“In this situation, things are definitely not bad enough to warrant the economic impacts [travel limits] are going to have,” Brownstein says.

Go to the original article, it has some great sub links as well.

Don’t panic about this flu, it’s not serious yet, it’s just the flu!

Source of Swine Flu might be found.

And it is a familiar refrain. In this story detailing what looks to be the first cases of swine flu hitting a village named La Gloria in Veracruz, Mexico the possible source, a large production pork factory.

A La Gloria resident who spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity yesterday described how illness swept through the village. “Some people started getting ill in February and an eight-month-old baby died,” she said. “After that another baby died on 21 March. Suddenly most of the village got ill. It was weekend and the tiny clinic here was closed. The state health authorities then did send doctors and nurses to look after us, and give us medication. About 60% of the village were ill and we asked them what it was and they said it was a severe and atypical cold. We talked about influenza and they said that was impossible, that influenza had been eradicated from Mexico.”


the US owner of an industrial pig production facility around 12 miles from La Gloria said it had found no clinical signs or symptoms of swine flu in its herd or Mexican employees. The world’s biggest pig meat producer, Virginia-based Smithfield, said it is co-operating with the Mexican authorities’ attempts to locate the possible source of the outbreak and will submit samples from its herds at its Granjas Carroll subsidiary to the University of Mexico for tests.


Smithfield, which is led by pork baron Joseph W Luter III, has previously been fined for environmental damage in the US. In October 2000 the supreme court upheld a $12.6m (£8.6m) fine levied by the US environmental protection agency which found that the company had violated its pollution permits in the Pagan River in Virginia which runs towards Chesapeake Bay. The company faced accusations that faecal and other bodily waste from slaughtered pigs had been dumped directly into the river since the 1970s .

I sincerely believe that with Listeriosis from Maple Leaf Foods, Salmonella from California, and Avian flu on Chicken farms… and now this…. well, shouldn’t we see this as a sign that Mother Nature is catching up to us? We are clearly tempting fate here with our gigantic food distribution networks.

It is time to relocalize in a big way. Grow locally, store locally, and only import luxury items that you can not produce at home.

This would not stop the spread of disease, but it would limit the waste, scale down the size of any operations making them more manageable and force those operations to maintain much higher standards of practice.

And just one more note before I finish. I discovered this link through a search for “swine flu” on twitter. I have discovered that Twitter really is an incredible way to find new information, fast, often long before it hits the airwaves.

And if you would like to see a Map of possible and confirmed Swine flu cases here you go. It was last updated around 5:30AM PST.

Be a Marrow Donor

I just signed up to be a Bone Marrow donor. Will you?

You should, you might never have to actually donate your bone marrow stem cells, but then again, you might be the only person in the whole world with the perfect match.

You can join the “OneMatch” program online at Canadian Blood Services. If you agree to sign up and get through the questionnaire (which, if you’ve ever donated blood, is very similar) then all you will need to do is go in to have a swab of your cheek taken at a Hospital or Clinic. Your information will kept on file, anonymously and compared with patients needing a donor. All the information is on the site.

It’s so easy to be a member, and even though actually donating marrow is more involved then just giving blood, it is also that much more rare and precious.

You must be between 18 and 50 (17-50 in Quebec).