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Monday, April 27, 2009

Governor Schwarzenegger's Press Conference

Since I was issued a press pass for the conference, on a tip, I went to Governor Schwarzenegger's press conference on the swine flu outbreak. I was the only one taking pictures with an iPhone. For the most part, it was as expected, they are testing new flu cases, monitoring the borders in San Diego and Imperial counties (though he made it clear there are no travel restrictions, at least not yet - the Mexican border is a Federal issue in any case), and they gave hygiene tips (wash your hands!). There are currently seven cases in California, an eighth is suspected, and they are looking at a dozen additional cases. One of the doctors present noted that the CDC has created a seed virus and is ready to move forward to create a vaccine if needed (there are currently 5 million does of anti-viral medication out there - a combination of Tami flu and Relenza (sp?) - 25% will come to California, and they will be concentrated in the counties where there are outbreaks.


But the news, I thought, was when he was asked to react to advice being given in Europe not to travel to America, California in particular. Instead of saying that wasn't necessary, that it was alarmist, he said that each country has to do what it thinks is best. He did not say the advice was bad, and he made a statement about how we cannot worry about the economic effects right now. That made me think he believes the problem is far bigger than what is reported above (otherwise, the probability of infection is minuscule, and the European advice isn't really needed). Even so, I'd guess he wishes he'd given a different answer.

Update: Bloomberg's version:

Avoid Travel to Mexico, U.S. Says as Outbreak of Flu Advances, by Tom Randall, April 27 (Bloomberg): Nonessential travel to Mexico should be avoided because of the outbreak of swine flu there that may be responsible for killing 100 people and sickening 1,000, U.S. health officials said.

A similar recommendation made by European officials against travel to the U.S., where 40 cases have been confirmed, is “premature,” said Richard Besser, acting head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. None of the U.S. cases has been fatal, and the government is distributing swine flu information to people arriving in the U.S., he said.

Both the U.S. and European travel warnings may be influenced by politics more than science, said Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization in Geneva. WHO doesn’t recommend closing borders or restricting the movement of people or goods, Chan told leaders from United Nations agencies in a conference call today. The disease, also confirmed in Canada and Spain, has spread too far and would be impossible to contain by closing borders, she said.

“By definition, pandemic influenza will move around the world,” Chan said in the call today. “Does that mean we are going to close every country? Does that mean we are going to bring the world’s economy to a standstill?

“We know from past experience that transmission of influenza or the spread of new influenza disease would not be stopped by closing borders and would not be stopped by restricting movement of people or goods.” ...

Travel to Asia plunged during the 2002-2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory disease, or SARS. ... “When we talk about travel advisories, we cannot think of the old days when we were dealing with SARS,” Chan said today. “It’s a totally different ballgame now.” ...

Health authorities in the U.S. recommended that nonessential travel to Mexico be avoided. The European Union also advised travelers to avoid areas affected by the outbreak. Australia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea are among countries screening travelers for fever, while Hong Kong raised its swine- flu response level to “serious” from “alert.”

When asked whether Europeans should avoid traveling to California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the state’s governor, said: “That’s probably a wise decision.”

He said the risk of decreased tourism is outweighed by the importance of preventing the spread of the virus. ... 

    Posted by on Monday, April 27, 2009 at 12:00 PM in Economics, Press | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (20)


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