Monday, April 27

Mexico-U.S. swine flu outbreak and the U.S. Department of Slime (UPDATED 4:10 PM ET)

U.S. set to issue travel warning to Mexico
Mon Apr 27, 2009 3:26pm BST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government plans to issue a travel warning later on Monday urging Americans to avoid all "nonessential" trips to Mexico because of an outbreak of swine flu, a U.S. official said. [...]

"There will be a travel warning urging Americans to avoid all nonessential travel to Mexico because of the swine flu," said a U.S. official, who spoke on condition he not be named as the warning has not yet been officially announced.

It is likely to be announced by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although the State Department will also carry details on its Web site, the official said. [...]
And breaking news 4:25 PM ET: WHO has just raised the pandemic threat level to 4, which acknowledges what they knew several days ago, which is that the virus is transmitted primarily human-to-human.

Gee, maybe I should call State "slime" more often. That's about as much humor as I can wring out of this grim situation.
Yesterday The Washington Post published a report titled U.S. slow to learn of Mexico flu, which begins:
U.S. public health officials did not know about a growing outbreak of swine flu in Mexico until nearly a week after that country started invoking protective measures, and didn't learn that the deaths were caused by a rare strain of the influenza until after Canadian officials did.(1)
But why didn't the U.S. Department of State inform the CDC of the situation in Mexico?

Or are we to assume that both the Mexican and Canadian foreign offices refrained from informing State that a killer epidemic in Mexico was caused by a new -- new, not rare -- virus, as soon as they had such evidence?

The Post also reports, from the same article:
[I]t seems that U.S. public health officials are still largely in the dark about what's happening in Mexico two weeks after the outbreak was recognized.

Asked at a news conference yesterday whether the number of swine flu cases found daily in Mexico is increasing -- a key determinant in understanding whether an epidemic is spreading -- Anne Schuchat, an interim deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, "I do not know the answer to those questions."
The rest of the Post article explains how Canada came to be contacted before the United States. But if the CDC is still having trouble coordinating with their Mexican counterparts on this most urgent matter, the ball is in State's court.

Memo to those Members of Congress who're trying to do an end run around Bob Gates by restoring State to the power it had over the U.S. military during the Clinton presidency. You need to reorder your priorities in tbe face of a global pandemic. If Mrs Clinton is unclear about her job duties that problem should trump everything else.

But I want to return to the odd statement, "U.S. public health officials did not know about a growing outbreak of swine flu in Mexico until nearly a week after that country started invoking protective measures ..."

I understand that the Central Intelligence Agency has been very busy talking with lawyers since the CIA memos were released. But this is not the remotest region of the Hindu Kush we're talking about. Aren't there any Spanish speakers at Langley?

In other words why should the CDC have to wait to learn from Mexican officials that there was a killer flu outbreak in Mexico?

Then there's the NSA. And State's own spy agency. Oh -- and there's the DEA, which has a large presence in Mexico.

Didn't any DEA agents phone stateside in early April and say, 'Ship us more Tamiflu yesterday! There's a strange flu epidemic going on here?'

And say, doesn't the U.S. have an embassy in Mexico City -- which is the locus of one of the biggest outbreaks of the epidemic?

No embassy workers rang up State and shrieked, 'Send us more Tamiflu, were trapped in an epidemic?'

Nobody did that, huh?

And nobody at the embassy sent a routine report to HQ in Washington and added, 'By the way, flu season is over here, but there's been an outbreak of something that seems like a really bad flu.'

Oh but then I forgot! You can't contact Foggy Bottom from there because Mexico City is situated on the dark side of the moon.

I don't want to hear that State -- and the White House and the congressional leadership -- didn't know.

As to why they didn't tell the CDC what they knew -- who can plumb the mind of human slime? But you'd think that even slime would have a sense of self-preservation.

There is still no travel advisory from State regarding the outbreak of a lethal epidemic in Mexico, not even a travel alert.

1) H/T No Quarter

This entry is crossposted at RBO.

Dan Riehl links to this post and add his pithy comments.


MAS1916 said...

Is this outbreak really a concern or is this just another Obama performance moment? Or did Mexico just not want this information released?

Unfortunately, people pass away from complications of influenza each year. Mexico has lost over one hundred people to this outbreak, but that country has a total population of 111 million.

We'll see if this virus really is of concern or not.

In any event, for a lighter look at another flu epidemic, hit:

Pundita said...

I only wish it had been an Obama performance moment. His administration, State, and DHS fell down badly by being very slow off the dime.

I share your hope about the virus but for many months into the future this virus will be of gravest concern.

Stay tuned.