Streetwise Professor

August 6, 2009

More Russian Swine Flu Adventures

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 9:21 pm

Russia, not exactly known for its solicitousness to public health, has one-upped its silly spring actions against swine flu with a summer follow up:

Last week, Gennady Onishchenko, Russia’s Nosferatu-like chief medical officer, called for the Russian regions to consider restricting children’s travel to the UK in order to prevent the spreading of swine flu. On Wednesday Moscow followed the Sverdlovsk Region in actually banning groups of children from visiting Britain. But the “cordon sanitare” imposed by the authorities has drawn criticism from the tourism industry, which calls it an unconstitutional restriction on freedom of movement. And it probably will not prevent the spread of the disease anyway.

. . . .

But the travel agents may be right to question whether such strong quarantine measures are justified. Although the outbreak has indeed reached epidemic levels in the UK, British health professionals seem much more relaxed than their Russian counterparts. “All in all, it’s a storm in a tea cup,” said James Wight, a doctor working in England. “Deaths attributed to swine flu totaled 29 on July 17 – apparently not worse than you would expect from an outbreak of standard flu, and targeting people with other underlying health problems rather than the healthy.”

And, Turina argues, if the H1N1 really was dangerous, the limited embargo Rospotrebnadzor has imposed would be useless. “Children who travel privately go to the same schools, take the same busses, and sit in the same classrooms as those who happen to have booked a group tour. It’s a virus – it doesn’t discriminate according to what kind of travel deal you have,” she said.

The singling out of the UK also seems odd, given H1N1’s near ubiquity. In other circumstances it might be tempting to call it political – Onishchenko has a reputation for banning imports of food stuffs whenever Russia’s relations with a given country are strained. He found something wrong with American frozen chicken in the aftermath of the war with Georgia last August, and in June he sparked a trade war with Minsk when he banned Belarusian milk products. But Britain’s relations with Russia have been unusually uneventful as of late – at least, free of radioactive murders, small wars or trade disputes.

I think that the last paragraph breaks the code for unwrapping the enigma and solving the riddle, at least when it comes to explaining the oddities of Russian public health campaigns.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress