Apart from the continuous local politically-charged news, the media seems to be dominated with reports (ad nauseum) of swine flu, how swine flu is affecting business, and therefore, negative sentiments when it comes to the bourses.
Amazing, isn’t it, how entire economies can tremble over the fears of a swine flu pandemic. Maybe this fear is the after-effects of watching 28 Days Later, and its sequel, 28 Weeks Later, one too many times. The last time a strain of flu virus spread on a pandemic scale was in the period from 2002 – 2003, with the SARS virus. And take it from Walski, zombies are much more infectious.
On a slightly lighter note, a good friend of Walski’s remarked that all this business about swine flu has gotten police worldwide worried… and if you didn’t catch the joke, don’t worry, because it’s not in very good taste. Walski still thinks it’s funny, though…
You are probably wondering, like Walski was, why it’s called Swine Flu, right? It so happens that there are 3 classes of human flu virus, Influenzavirus A, B and C. Two of these, A and C, are also endemic in pigs. Typically, however, the specific strains of these classes in humans and pigs are distinct to each species. With every rule, though, there are exceptions, and it appears that the strain that’s currently causing this anxiety worldwide, has adapted itself to humans.
The present swine flu-fest apparently started in Mexico (first detected case), near a pig farm in La Gloria, Veracruz, Mexico (source: Times Online, via Wikipedia), where residents had long been complaining of the manure lagoons near the pig farms there, which had been attracting “clouds of flies”.
That’s a shitload of flies, people. Pun intended.
So again, untreated animal waste from farms has been identified as a health hazard (which is why the modern Projek Khinzir Raksaksa in Selangor is actually a good idea). But La Gloria being the epicenter of the swine flu epidemic is being refuted by the US corporation that partly owns the particular facility, and by Mexico’s pig producers national organization. Pork products is, after all, big business.
And whenever there’s big business, there’s bound to be swine around…
(more jittery oink-oinks, and more, in the full post)
But why are the businesses and bourses worldwide jittery?
Well, for one thing, 2002/2003 isn’t all that long ago, and the memories of SARS, and Avian Flu (some years earlier) are still fresh in people’s minds. One of the reasons these spread far and wide as because of air travel.
Pandemics… air travel…. well, naturally people don’t want to fly, or travel any other way, for that matter. And when that happens, tourism and air travel businesses get affected. Which then causes jitteriness in bourses because of the perceived effects these pandemics will have on business at large. And so on and so forth…
Although there are fears that the US may soon see its first swine flu casualty, interestingly enough, to date, all the deaths attributed to the current outbreak of swine flu have been confined to Mexico. This puzzling question is the focus of an article published on the CNN.com website.
As a species, though, humans are getting much better at tackling epidemics and pandemics. Around 90 years or so ago, the deadly Spanish flu pandemic killed over 50 million people worldwide, with a staggering 10% fatality rate of those infected. Compare that to Avian flu (1990 – present), which although killed 61% of those 421 persons infected, was much less widespread, even though by that time, worldwide travel was a lot more prevalent (source: Wikipedia).
The World Health Organization (WHO) is also not taking these virulent incidents lightly, and have recently elevated their alert level to Level 4, after infections were reported from a lot more countries (source: Malaysiakini, subscription required).
But despite experts’ insistence that this particular strain of virus behind the swine flu cannot be contracted from eating pork products (AFP, via GoogleNews), many countries have imposed bans on US and Mexican pork products.
Malaysian pig farmers have gone a step further in calling for a blanket ban on the import of any and all pork products – from anywhere. They also called on authorities to improve swine flu vaccines.
Their representative, Malaysian Federation of Livestock Farmers' Association (Swine Unit) president Beh Kim Hee said the move was necessary to prevent the Mexican swine flu from reaching Malaysian shores.
Speaking at a press conference in Subang Jaya today, Beh said previously the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) did not approve the vaccines because the situation then did not warrant so.
But now, Beh said, although the DVS had declared that Malaysian pig farms were free from the virus, a local vaccination program was crucial to protect livestock in view of the global spread of the virus.
(source: Malaysiakini, subscription required)
Rather alarmist, if you were to ask Walski, but then again, it’s their rice bowl. Calling for a blanket ban on the import of all pork products, however, sounds more like being opportunistic, rather than it being for health concerns. But then again, that’s just Walski.
This jitteriness among pork growers is not confined to Malaysia, however. And this simply adds to the overall jitteriness of the various bourses worldwide, adding pork producers to tourism and travel related businesses feeling the effects of this outbreak.
Which only means that for the next few weeks to come, until more definite news about this outbreak being contained, we’ll be seeing more swine flu news in the media. And, of course, its effects on the market in general.
It’ll be a while, as far as the media is concerned anyhow, before we’re totally over the days of swine and bourses…