Although swine flu is certain to reach Ireland within days, if it hasn’t already done so, it is important that we are neither complacent nor panicked about the eventuality.

That view has been voiced by a Tramore politician who wants precautions and protections in place, but is fearful that tourism could be disproportionately affected.

“It would be a pity if tourism in Ireland and, by extension, in the south east, was to suffer from the effects – not of a pandemic, but world media-generated hysteria”, commented Tramore Town Councillor Joe Conway (Ind) on Tuesday.

He said that given the level of international travel occurring to and from Ireland it would be surprising if an outbreak of swine flu in this country was not imminent.

Issuing his warning against either complacency or panic, he said the Department of Health here appeared reasonably happy with stockpiles of both Tamiflu and Relenza to treat a significant level of infection. “But, with the recent history of both SARS and Avian flu, both of which were promoted as being imminent pandemics but retreated into obscurity, there may be a temptation to be complacent”, he said. “The Department must reiterate normal precautionary measures in a public education campaign”.

He went on to say that as with most developments, the outbreak had lateral effects on the economy. Shares in Glaxo for example, the makers of Relenza, performed strongly on Monday – while the travel industry braced itself for a further blow. The SARS outbreak of 2003 which in totality killed just 800 people worldwide nevertheless was believed to have cost the travel and tourism industry around €50 billion.

He hoped that an over-reaction in the current situation did not cost tourism – and the economy – unnecessarily.

The origin of this new strain remains unknown but is probably a misnomer, with pig, bird and human antecedents involved. One theory is that Asian and European strains travelled to Mexico in migratory birds or in people, then combined with North American strains in Mexican pig factory farms before “jumping” to farm workers.

The earliest known human influenza A virus subtype H1N1 case was at a Mexican pig farm whose nearby neighbours had been complaining about the smell and flies.

Pork products are absolutely disconnected from the influenza, as transmission is only through human contact.