While the World Health Organization has stated that it considers the recent outbreak of Swine Flu in Mexico to be a major threat and says that it could quickly become a pandemic, our own authorities here in the U.S. seem unconcerned, even though 8 cases have been reported in NYC and many more in Texas, in communities close to the border.
Mexico City has been virtually shut down as authorities scramble to get the epidemic under control. Most public facilities such as libraries and schools have been closed, and citizens are being cautioned to leave their homes as little as possible.
Is the virus really under control here, or are our leaders downplaying the threat for fear of the effect that public fear might have on the economy? Charles Hughes Smith at Of Two Minds thinks the latter, that our leaders have, while knowing full well the scope of the threat, adopted a policy of "no bad news" so as not to ruffle the fragile financial markets.
Can we trust our political leaders to put public health and safety ahead of corporate profits? Can we trust them to tell the public the truth, even if it means consumer spending will take another huge hit? We have to doubt it, especially after the maladroit handling of the Katrina disaster by local, state, and federal officials alike.
Update: Immediately after I published this post, the Dow Jones wire reported that 100 people have died of flu in Mexico, and that the European markets have fallen as investors dump travel-related stocks. One case of the flu has been reported in Spain and 17 more are being investigated.