Disease Vector

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Though swine flu has yet to much harm in the United States, it is not only Mexico and parts south that are suffering. The virus has spread quickly among the tribal villages of far northern Manitoba, accounting for one- quarter of that province’s sick. The urgency of the situation is compounded by many of the affected communities lacking a source of running water, making impossible the hygienic procedures necessary for containing the flu.

As one might imagine, getting vaccines to such remote locations is a daunting logistical challenge, and a demonstration of how poorly suited bureaucratic structures are for tasks such as delivering emergency aid. One might think, though, that the many layers of government devoted to ensuring Canadian health care could at least coordinate an airdrop of a case of hand sanitizer. But healthcare paternalism is way too advanced up north to roll back now; the Toronto Star (June 25) reports that “Health Canada had delayed sending alcohol-based hand sanitizers to some First Nations communities for fearsome residents might drink it.”

So here we have a simple and cheap method for dealing with the virus among one of the poorest groups of people in the country, kept at bay by the fear that this method will speed the demise of chronic alcoholics whose lives already have less expectancy than those infected with the flu. The utter predictability of it all is telling; yet another giveaway that healthcare boards have far less interest in the public weal than in the perpetuation of their own power.

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