Anchor Lisa Mullins continues her conversation with health journalist Christine Gorman and Peter Sandman, a risk communications consultant, about answers to questions about swine flu.
This text below is a phonetic transcript of a radio story broadcast by PRI's THE WORLD. It has been created on deadline by a contractor for PRI. The transcript is included here to facilitate internet searches for audio content. Please report any transcribing errors to email@example.com. This transcript may not be in its final form, and it may be updated. Please be aware that the authoritative record of material distributed by PRI's THE WORLD is the program audio.
LISA MULLINS: I'm Lisa Mullins and this is The World. Back now to our questions about the swine flu. We're getting some answers from health journalist Christine Gorman, and risk communication consultant Peter Sandman. Next question went to Peter Sandman: Should the United States close the border with Mexico?
PETER SANDMAN: The danger is not coming from across the border anymore, it's coming from across the street. It's the wrong focus. It's very, very tempting to want to close the border. It's very tempting to want to close airports. In pandemic drills routinely politicians close borders and close airports in order to try to keep it from getting from where it is to where they are. The experts invariably say that's foolish. You're gonna do more harm to your supply chain by stopping the trucks and freight than you are gonna do good by trying to stop the virus. The experts say it's foolish. The politicians say, alright maybe it's foolish but if I don't do it my constituents will crucify me and they close the airports and the close the boarder. Do I think it makes sense biologically? No. Does it make sense psychologically? Yeah, it's very hard not to want to do it.
MULLINS: Although I imagine there would be an enormous psychological reaction if that were the case. But if Mexico, right now, if it appears that the outbreak has been at least stabilized and the reason being the aggressive measures that have been taken there, the people are not congregating en mass in major population areas then wouldn't it make sense, as undesirable as it might sound, wouldn't it make sense to not plant any more seeds here in the United States?
GORMAN: We have to really think about virology and viruses work very different from what we think how they should work, and actually researchers don't even understand completely how the flu virus works. Meaning, in many ways, I'm really paying attention to what's happening in New York City where we had an outbreak. Some kids came back from spring break in a school in Queens. Hundreds of people became sick. It wasn't just the kids who were in Mexico so it's the people who travel to Mexico, gave it to their families and to their friends, and we haven't seen continued sustained spread throughout Queens, and that's really what you're looking for is that sustained transmission. It's the same virus; in fact virologists were saying it's kind of remarkable given how sloppy a virus flu is, how closely related the genetic sequences are from the ones isolated in California and Texas and Mexico. So you don't have to say, okay, well, as bad as it sounds we should block the border, that it's not gonna work. You know, are you gonna block New York from the rest of the country? I don't think so. We have to be adult about this and take information that is unclear at the moment that will become more clear as we go on and take appropriate steps.
MULLINS: From both of you, as we say goodbye here, Peter Sandman and Christine Gorman have you taken any precautions in your own lives?
GORMAN: Well, yes, I have taken some precautions. I did stock up on some canned soup and am a little more careful about shaking people's hands and have thought about, okay, if I were out sick for several days do I have enough of the basic supplies I need at home.
SANDMAN: Can I ask Christine a question?
MULLINS: Go ahead.
SANDMAN: Christine you have stocked up on canned soup and other supplies. Have you advised your readers to do so?
MULLINS: What are you worried about, Peter?
SANDMAN: Well, it goes back to what I was saying earlier. I think the government is taking this very seriously hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. It needs to tell the public to do the same. Like Christine I have replenished my larder. So, if there are a couple of weeks during which either it's not entirely safe to go out or there's not much in the store anyhow because the trucks have been stopped at the Mexican border I've got plenty of peanut butter, I've got plenty of canned goods, I've got plenty of bottled water, I'm good to stay where I am for a couple of weeks. I am aghast that the government thinks this is serious enough that they have sent millions of doses of tamiflu out to the states so they'll be ready to give to millions of Americans who might get sick. But they haven't told those millions of Americans who might get sick that now while they're healthy they should stock up on tuna.
MULLINS: Alright, thank you both very much for your insights, personal and professional as well. Christine Gorman health and medical journalist, she blogs about global health. You can find a link to her blog at theworld.org, and she joined us from the BBC studios in New York. Peter Sandman is a risk communications consultant. He joined us from Princeton, New Jersey. Nice to have you both on, stay healthy.