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4 May, 2009 09:30

ROAR: Russian Opinion and Analytics Review, May.4

ROAR: Russian Opinion and Analytics Review, May.4

This Monday ROAR presents opinions on the origins of pandemic fears.

ITOGI weekly magazine publishes two columns on the swine flu outbreak.

Kirill Privalov writes that swine flu, like many of its predecessors, is highly contagious – but only through contacts with the public media.

The columnist writes that pandemic fears are becoming a mighty tool in the hands of those who manipulate public opinion in the world: becoming media stories, multiple occurrences of a disease in one area of the world turn into epidemics and acquire a second life that has nothing to do with the real impact of the disease. These virtual epidemics always become ‘world-wide pandemics in the making’ – at least for a few weeks, and even when they are over, they are remembered as pandemics that somehow failed to materialize – most probably because of timely measures taken by the world community…

In fact, he says, the epidemics usually do not go further than the fears, while the fears, through the media become global. The columnist says that such was the case with bird flu in 2003, when 257 people died and millions around the world held their breath waiting for the plague to reach their homes. The actual result of the bird flu fear was not medical, but economic. In South-east Asia and China billions of birds were culled and dozens of farms went bankrupt while importers in Europe, Japan and South Korea maintained bans on import from the ‘contaminated regions’.

The columnist says that we should not forget that the flu then coincided with the Asian financial crisis which had slowed down the incredibly fast economic development of the ‘Tigers’ of South-east Asia. Amazingly, he continues, the 99 additional deaths from the bird flu which happened after the year 2006, i.e. three years after the ‘epidemic’, were barely noticed by the media, and, for certain, failed to cause world-wide fears…

Now the same thing is happening again, this time with swine flu which has been known to mankind for centuries. It is described in the media like something absolutely new in animal husbandry, which is factually incorrect, and its devastating march around the world is predicted as something inevitable. Vague opinions of no-name experts are transmitted and multiplied by the media, from newspapers through radio and TV to the Internet, creating a global scare – global, meaning the part of the world’s population who have access to news and are educated enough to trust the ‘experts’ on the TV screen.

The columnist quotes psychologist Dr. Svetlana Kolosova, who says that we all are falling victims of organized psychological programs. She thinks that the swine flu scare is an operation by the US government, a diversion aimed at filling the heads of Americans and people in other countries suffering from the global economic crisis with fear of something realistic and more critical than the recession in the economy, so the attention may be distracted from the punishment of economic officials guilty for not having recognized the crisis for what it was at its very beginning.

The expert says that the scare can also damage the economy of China, the biggest producer and exporter of pork in the world, while also affecting the economies and politics of America’s southern neighbors, including Mexico and ‘too independent’ countries like Venezuela and Nicaragua, in order to tie them more tightly to the US economy.

In the same issue of ITOGI, Alla Astakhova writes that the kind of flu that became known as swine flu is, in fact, a combination of an ordinary flu found in pigs with bird flu and the usual human version of the virus. The columnist quotes the researchers who say that the virus of swine flu that has been circulating around Mexico and the nearby frontier areas of the US for at least 30 years. It produced a few human cases and has one human death attributed to it.

However, the current version on the move is more complex. It is a new virus, she writes, because it originated from a mutation which brought together three kinds of species: specific flu (pig, bird and human), with the human flu represented by two geographically different kinds of the disease, the American and the Eurasian.

The columnist quotes the experts saying that in this case the virus presents a certain pandemic danger (it has developed the ability to ‘jump’ from pigs to humans and from humans to humans) but humankind ‘has gotten lucky’ in the sense that the outbreak began off season for flu, so its rapid spreading became limited by weather conditions. However, the same experts say that there is a clear necessity to create a vaccine for this particular virus in case it starts spreading faster, or comes back in a few years.

Evgeny Belenkiy, RT.