Saturday, August 15, 2009

The "Ethnicity" of Swine Flu

1. Is the swine flu-epidemic currently engulfing the world, a pandemic especially in countries or regions with extensive pig-farming activities.
2. If so, are specific ethnicities particularly resistant to the ravages wrought by the disease?
In light to what is unfolding in Malaysia, it would be interesting to find out the answers to the 2 questions.
The answers to Q1 seem to suggest a significant link between the incidence of swine flu and the existence of hog-farms within the region/country. The scientific evidence is slowly but surely accumulating that there is a direct correlation between pigfarming and swine flu incidence.
a."In Europe in 1993, a bird flu virus had adapted to pigs, acquiring a few human flu virus genes and infected two young Dutch children, displaying evidence of limited human-to-human transmission"

source:Webster RG, Sharp GB, and Claas CJ. 1995. Interspecies transmission of influenza viruses. Americal Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine 152:525-30.

Now that morsel of information, which i stumbled upon by chance, led me to this:

b. "75% of the current swine flu genetic material had already assorted itself within pigs as early as probably 1998."

source:Trifonov V, et al. 2009. The origin of the recent swine influenza A(H1N1) virus infecting humans. Eurosurveillance 14(17).

and this led to earnest sleuthing, which brought me to this article that also quotes the two mentioned above: CDC Confirms Ties to Virus First Discovered in U.S. Pig Factories (

Now with the link already firmly established especually when looked in the context of this article:="

one needs to establish the obvous, presence of extensive hog farming = swine flu.
and that is where another investigative piece comes in from here :

"The Fraser Health Authority, the district with the largest number of pigs in the province—and one of the most intensively farmed areas in Canada—has a 39-percent-higher rate of confirmed H1N1 cases per capita (9.7 per 100,000 people) than the provincial average (7.0 per 100,000), according to data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control as of July 6. B.C.’s first confirmed death from H1N1 flu occurred on July 13 in the region. The rate is even higher in the Northern Health Authority, which has the highest ratio of pigs to people in the province. The northern region has a 48-percent-higher per capita H1N1 rate (10.3 per 100,000) than the B.C. average.
The data shows a near-perfect 93-percent correlation between the number of pigs in a health region and the number of confirmed H1N1 cases there. (Correlation measures the strength of the relationship between two groups of data. A correlation of 70 percent or higher is generally considered to be strong.)"

Now even though there is quibbling over data intepretation in the comments section, it is still pertinent to note that the sheer volume of data as intimated by Roslin, precludes such a linkage being a chance occurence.

In fact when extrapolated against the distribution of swine flu worldwide, a clear trend emerges: very few incidences of swine flu in non-pig farming countries of the Middle East and certain areas of Africa and extensive incidence in pig-farming countries including Malaysia. Now a caveat needs to be in place:

a. any incidence in the ME is probably due to imported cases, a point stressed in India where returning individuals from "pig areas" were diagnosed to have been afflicted with swine flu as reported here:

(Note, the epicentre of swine flu in India is in Bombay-Pune- Ahmadebad axis in Madhya Pradesh where pigs roam the streets as a sort of mobile organic garbage dumps swilling up rubbish)

Q2 is answered by looking at the mortality rate among ethnicities. In the Malaysian context, with no racial breakdown, it is difficult to draw inferences. However, anecdotal evidence and newpaper reports seem to suggest that more Malays are succumbing to swine flu which lends credence to the postulation that the Chinese have developed immunity to the disease through their close dietary and economic affinity with swine and are primarily carriers which in turn explains why non-pigfarming areas such as Terengganu have seen such virulence. Racial baiting?I sincerely hope it is not construed as such cos statistical evidence suggest that China (which suffered in SARS and Bird Flu) with 2400 cases have surprisingly.......... 0 fatalities.

So how does this explain, the high mortality rate in Caucasian countries? That will have to wait while evidence is gathered but my hunch is that there is a genetic/racial factor behind the whole thing or it could be that unlike the Chinese, the Westerners coming from a highly sanitised living environment have not developed immunity like the Chinese, living in hovel-like conditions, have .

Case in point= Singapore; no pig farms, prevalence of swine flu ( due to imported cases or carrier transmission from malaysia); 11 deaths = Aint Spore, a squeaky clean place like the West?

Revert : Time to close the pig farms in Malaysia and ban the sale of pork.

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