Russia, renowned for its public health prowess, is taking aggressive measures against swine flu:
All passengers arriving in Russia from the United States or Mexico will have their temperatures tested to make sure that they are not carrying a deadly strain of swine flu, Gennady Onishchenko, head of the Federal Consumer Protection Service, said Sunday.
“All airline passengers from Mexico and the United States will be passing through a contact-free heat sensor,” he said, Interfax rep
Whew. Glad there’s a “contact free” test. When I read the first paragraph, I had a vision of a Russian Nurse Ratched standing at the end of the jetway in Sheremetyevo with a thermometer, and NOT one of those nice little electronic oral ones, if you know what I mean.
Uhm, I mean a temperature may be a necessary condition for swine flu, but it’s hardly a sufficient condition. My 15 year old had a fever last week. Pretty sure it wasn’t the swine flu. Talk about a test tailor-made for false positives. In other words, a complete waste of resources with virtually no prospect of any benefit. Unless the whole idea is to discourage foreign tourists, and to deter Russians from traveling abroad.
But the government’s vigilance does not stop there:
The outbreak also led to a new round of pork bans, Nikolai Vlasov, a deputy head of Russia’s veterinary health watchdog, said Sunday. Effective immediately, uncooked pork from Mexico, California, Texas and Kansas will be stopped at the border because of confirmed swine flu cases there.
Uhm, again–one can’t contract swine flu from meat:
Here is the C.D.C.’s response to the pork question: “Swine influenza viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.”
Russia has routinely used health justifications to ban imports of agricultural products that compete with domestic producers. This just seems another transparently opportunistic attempt to exploit health fears to engage in protectionism.
The swine flu is a potentially serious matter. Thoughtful measures are called for. The public measures Russia has announced are, to say the least, not thoughtful. They betray a mixture of xenophobia and economic opportunism. And, what’s more, they would be more palatable if Russia took a similarly aggressive tack to its own public health dangers (e.g., various outbreaks of bird flu, and especially problems with virulent TB and AIDS).