IT’S the pigs for whom I feel the most pity.

I can’t imagine they intended to decimate the human race with a deadly new flu strain, even though, according to scientists, they are “excellent hosts” for the virus.

Pigs are undemanding creatures, happy to eat, grunt and wallow in whatever surroundings they are placed, and, according to farmers who tend and rear them, undeserving of their reputation for being “mucky”.

But they have transmitted swine flu, initially in Mexico, where a reported 86 deaths triggered the World Health Organisation to issue warnings of a global pandemic.

This deadly virus is passed between humans, and air travel has predictably resulted in outbreaks in several countries, including the UK.

A family friend who attended a posh wedding in a Mexican coastal resort a month or so ago was aghast when news broke about the source, adding that she never saw a pig in the two weeks she spent there. I hadn’t the heart to tell her that pig farms aren’t found alongside five-star hotels, particularly in Mexico, which derives considerable income from tourism.

However, the good news is that apart from jet lag, she suffered no ill-effects from the spell in Latin America and hasn’t sneezed once since she returned, tanned and bursting with health.

Swine flu has infected humans before, but cases have been rare and usually involved farmers who worked directly with pigs. There was an outbreak at a military camp in New Jersey in 1976. It affected 200 soldiers, of whom 12 were hospitalised and one died. So America, which shares a border with Mexico, is understandably nervous about the latest outbreak.

Scientists are concerned because this virus is a strain of the H1N1 type, which contains bird, pig and human genes in a combination not seen before, so immunity will be limited. Anti-viral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza cannot prevent flu but can limit its severity if taken as soon as the symptoms develop. However, there might be a problem in that direction.

These days, one has to phone for an appointment to see one’s general practitioner, which does rather suggest that future illnesses can be included among the jottings on one’s wall chart, or personal diary, which is utter nonsense.

One is advised to phone for an appointment any time after 8am, which usually means several dozen sick folk trying to contact the surgery at the same time, chasing whatever slots are available to see their GP.

In the event of a global pandemic of swine flu, the chances of hundreds, nay thousands, possibly millions of us being able to make an appointment to see our GP is somewhere between none and sod all. Now that’s a thought to go with the bacon butties and mug of steaming hot, sweet tea, is it not?

No matter. Let us end on a far happier note. Bacon is not on the forbidden list. Cooking it destroys the virus, so those butties, one of life’s pleasures, won’t kill us. Swine flu might, but not bacon butties. So I suggest you munch on one while hanging on the phone, trying to book a surgery appointment.