Dr. John Carlo has better things to do this morning than talk to Unfair Park: As medical director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, Carlo has spent the last several days tracking the "three probable cases" of swine flu in Dallas County while also "gathering more information and being on the lookout for any other additional cases that may pop up," he tells Unfair Park. His office is acting as "communications central," getting out updates and further warnings as necessary, but also heavily involved in "intense investigations and further planning," he says just as the clock strikes 8 a.m., shortly before President Obama said swine flu "requires a heightened state of alert, but it is not a cause for alarm."
"We're just kinda looking ahead to see what could happen next and be ready for any sort of potential here," Carlo says. "We haven't seen any severe cases in the U.S. But what happens if that changes?"
Which isn't exactly why I called the good doctor this morning. I was wondering, quite frankly, if Carlo was aware that comments he made at the end of last week -- in which he referred to this particular strain of swine flu as having been "cultured in a laboratory" -- had been picked up by conspiracy theorists who are now wondering, "Was this a slip-up or an admission that this new super-strain of swine influenza was deliberately cultured in a laboratory and released?" (His original press conference has also been woven into several YouTube videos.)
Oh, yes. He's well aware of it.
"I'm 36, and I don't blog," Carlo says. "But it hit the blogosphere very quickly, and we need to figure out how to be available to that media as well. We've been tracking this element of the news, and I went back and reviewed the information and where this came from -- and to be honest, I didn't see how that impression had been directed. But, of course, at this point, this is something completely natural. There should be no consideration this is man-made. This is something that has happened throughout history. Swine flu isn't rare. We see it every other year in the U.S. The point was, it's a completely new virus and something not seen before anywhere -- this particular strain of swine flu."
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For those needing further elucidation -- say, anyone who's never watched a television medical drama or been to a doctor -- when Carlo said the strain had been cultured in a lab, he just meant: "They took the swab off the individual infected with the illness and grew it in the lab," he says. "It's confusing, but it certainly wasn't created in a lab. I guess it seems obvious for the medical professionals. I'm working with my advisers to make it clear on the messaging. We definitely don't want to convey that it was created in the lab."