So, we seem to be done with swine flu. The epidem-mythology has slowed down. Mexico City has let out its collective breath. The media has moved on to covering their own coverage of the almost-pandemic. But before we close the book on H1N1, the Mythographer wants to call your attention to this one tiny postscript. This solitary pig in an Afghanistan zoo, already an outcast in this Muslim country, may be the last victim of swine-flu hysteria.
Once word of the near-outbreak reached his keepers, they moved him into social quarantine, alone in a pasture far from the motley other creatures which had become his friends. The weary zookeeper explains to the BBC that he knew that swine flu didn’t come from swine, but he didn’t want the zoo’s less-educated visitors to be put off by the existence of a disease-carrier. The move was clearly counter-productive, as now the whole world knows about this pig that no one seems to have known about before. It’s such a weird story. Outpourings of sympathy have swamped the pig, perhaps fired by misplaced guilt at attaching its species to a feared flu strain.
Westerners have called with urgency for the zoo to provide the pig with a mate. (The keeper, with possibly unintended humor, told the BBC that now was “not a good time” to go searching for another pig in Afghanistan.) But this pig and his zoo companions have been through much, much worse torment than being put out to pasture, literally speaking. Other zoo tenants had been attacked by militants, or even by each other: a bear was supposedly to blame for at least one death. That pig has bigger things to worry about than catching the flu. As do the rest of us.