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Swine Flu Hits Pork, Migrant Labor Supply, and Even Chuck E Cheese

Things seem to be calming down on the swine flu front -- businesses in Mexico City reopened today and the cases in the U.S. are turning out to be less severe than many seasonal flu strains. "If it weren't for Mexico, this would be a page-15 story," an infectious disease specialist told a New York Times contributor.

But the pork industry is in trouble. The panic is costing the industry $2.5 million a day, according to the National Pork Producers Council. Various officials have tried to assure the public that eating pork -- even raw pork -- does not put people at risk of catching swine flu (though eating raw pork is a bad idea for a lot of other reasons), and they've started calling the virus "H1N1 flu" instead of swine flu, in part to stop these erroneous assumptions about the dangers of pork.

Nevertheless, consumers are avoiding pork -- as are some countries, including Russia and China, which have banned pork imports from a growing number of places, prompting Mexico to turn to the WTO.

But pork hasn't been the only segment of the food industry affected. Apparently thousands of migrant farm workers from Mexico have been delayed at the border because of swine flu. And Chuck E. Cheese parent CEC Entertainment said it saw a 20 percent drop in same-store sales last week because of the virus.

In related news -- Egypt is apparently going to compensate pig farmers after the government decided to slaughter all 300,000 pigs in the country. The slaughter decision may have had religious motivations, as Muslims, like Jews, consider pigs unclean, and it is primarily the Christian minority that raises pigs in Egypt.

Afghanistan, another Muslim country, doesn't have any pigs at all -- except for the one in the zoo, which is now quarantined, according to MinnPost.

And finally, my personal favorite result of the swine-flu/H1N1 epidemic: a website that answers the question "Do I have swine flu?"

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