By SHARON K. GILBERT
April 28, 2009
SO FAR, the current swine flu outbreak in Mexico has killed over 150 people. AP reports that nearly 2,000 people have been hospitalized with pneumonia since April, and most, if not all, have been diagnosed with the new ‘cocktail’ strain of H1N1.
Up until now, it’s assumed that Patient Zero was a woman who became ill in Oaxaca sometime between April 6-9th, dying in the hospital on April 13th. But yesterday, AP reported that doctors now believe a 4-year-old boy may have been the one of the very first swine flu patients, falling ill in March, 2009. That boy (who survived) lives near a large pig farm in Veracruz–a farm owned jointly by Smithfield Foods (based in Virginia) and its subsidiary Granjas Carroll.
Residents near the farm claim they began falling ill in February. Many had complained of respiratory infections, blaming their maladies on contaminated water run-off from the pig farm. Locals suffered not only from disease, but also from a plague of flies that became so cumbersome, authorities had to seal off the small town of La Gloria and spray the flies.
Doctors report that the people living near the pig farm suffered from common influenza, therefore they did not bother to preserve serological samples. Except for the sample taken from the 4-year-old boy. For some reason [I could speculate here, but it would take us into conspiratorial territory, now wouldn’t it?], this miraculous sample exists and has been submitted for ‘international testing’. The conclusion: Swine Flu.
The scene pictured by what the AP report tells is vivid and Biblical in its scope.
Imagine living near a pig farm housing nearly a million pigs of various ages [see the company’s own website for the number]. Locals say the water run-off reeked of feces. Flies multiplied into the millions, forming black clouds that overflew fields and intruded into homes.
If these flies were ‘biting flies’, then it’s possible they served as vectors for disease. Some of the farmers claim the flies made them sick. Others say it was the water. Perhaps, it was both.
Could it be that swine influenza virons infected individuals at the same time that biting flies introduced a secondary infection into the same bloodstream? Or could it be that the flies mediated something new between the pigs and humans?
Facts, at this point, are few, but the United Nations is sending a team of specialists to investigate the farm and the locals who live nearby. More on this, as details emerge.