Swine Flu: Fingers Point; American Child Dies

The US suffered its first swine flu death yesterday, and accusations are flying about who "started" the epidemic.

Though previously the only deaths recorded were in Mexico, yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control reported the death of a 23-month-old child in Texas. Acting CDC Richard Besser said that although most swine flu sufferers in the US had a mild case, "we're going to find more severe cases and I expect that we'll continue to see additional deaths." Hong Kong infectious disease expert Lo Wing Lok noted that the appearance of a death — and 100 additional cases — outside Mexico was an ominous sign.

But rather than what we can do about it, let's focus on whose fault this is! Should we blame Edgar Hernandez, an adorable five-year-old who tested positive for swine flu during an outbreak in the Mexican town of La Gloria? Although he is the first recorded case in Mexico, and the governor of Veracruz visited his mother, at least one doctor told her Edgar didn't have swine flu. And there's no confirmation that the epidemic started in La Gloria.

Or does the fault lie with a woman the Daily Mail is helpfully calling Typhoid Maria, a door-to-door census taker in Oaxaca. She died of swine flu on April 13, and, according to the Mail, state health authorities were "were horrified to discover she may have come in contact with at least 300 people." The Mail winds up its article with a little history lesson on Typhoid Mary, an Irish chef who denied spreading the disease but was accused of infecting 53 people.

In a response of Biblical proportions, the Egyptian government will slaughter all pigs. But perhaps more disturbing than this porcine genocide or the media blame game is the cause La Gloria's residents identify for their outbreak. They blame toxins from pig waste, which enter the air and water from nearby farms. But "Typhoid Toxins From Nearby Farms" is less fun to say than "Typhoid Maria," so let's just keep pointing fingers.

U.S. has its first swine flu death [Reuters]
Typhoid Maria: How the first swine flu fatality was a Mexican census taker who went door-to-door... and may have caused a pandemic [Daily Mail]
Patient zero? Mom of first confirmed case talks [MSNBC]
Egyptian government slaughtering all pigs in the country as a precaution against swine flu [AP]