Monday, April 27, 2009

The Flu Pandemic – Don’t Panic. OK, Panic!

Even the swines are panicking!
There are many conflicting stories coming out of the news media about the possibility of a flu pandemic arising from a strain of swine flu that has, as of this writing, killed over 100 people in Mexico.

Every time I turn on the news or entertainment talk shows like The Today Show and The View, the subject is out in the forefront. Here in the Cleveland area it has made a lot of news since one case as been confirmed case of swine flu in a 9 year old boy in Elyria, which is a suburb just west of Cleveland, and the child’s school has been closed for a week. Right now, the boy is doing just fine and no one around him has gotten ill.

It seems that while flu strains kill many people each year, suddenly the media cares as this one seems to be affecting and killing younger people, and could be very easily transmitted.

The media insists that no one should be panicking, however. But, these disclaimers are followed by urgent calls for people to wash their hands many times a day, along with encouraging people to cover their nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing. (I can’t believe people still must be reminded on the latter, but I see people coughing and sneezing without covering their nose/mouth all the time, especially in supermarkets.) People in Mexico City are walking around with face masks on, yet a doctor on The View today just said these things don’t do much good. Oh well.

Federal health officials have declared a public health emergency, which was done to free up 12.5 million doses of various antiviral medications to fight the illness. So they do appear to be gearing up for a widespread outbreak.

If I didn’t know better, I would say Stephen King, author of “The Stand” – a book where a superbug-type biological weapon gets lose and kills most of mankind - is laughing somewhere. It seems King's fictional bug – nicknamed “Captain Trips” – is coming to life. I have to admit that having read that book many times (I think it’s King’s best book), it was the first thing that came to my mind when I first head about the deaths in Mexico.

The media continues to play the possibility of a pandemic up, at the same time talking out of the other side of their mouths, saying not to panic. It is a typical case of the media wanting to inform, but at the same time, not wanting to create panic. While there are no outward signs of complete panic that I can see here in the Cleveland area, it is quite a topic of discussion and clearly on the minds of many. When I went to the local Heinen's supermarket today, people were taking those clean wipes that are used to wipe down the handle of the shopping cart, but instead some of them looked like they were wiping down the whole cart. In Wal-Mart, the lines were long for a 9:30 on a weekday morning, and many people were talking about needing to stock up in case they were not allowed out of their houses for a week. One woman said to me that she knows they were told by the local news not to panic, but since we’re only about 35-40 miles from Elyria (and we are on the opposite side of the Cleveland metro area), she felt that they were holding something back and they really felt people had reason to panic. Someone in the next line sneezed and everyone got silent, then everyone laughed, including the woman who was just getting a little panicky. She then stated, “Maybe I’m over thinking this thing.”

For me, I am not planning on worrying just yet. Sure, I will wash my hands many times a day, just like I always do. I’ll be careful when I sneeze and cough, just like I always do. But I’m not ready just yet to close myself up in my house for a week while this whole thing passes over. The best suggestion the media has given is that if someone suspects they have the flu, they should contact their doctor immediately. Maybe the doctor can take precautions to make sure the patient doesn’t sit around in their waiting room infecting everyone else, though. Because everyone knows that a doctor’s waiting room cam sometimes be the best place to pick up a bug and get sick.

The Stand Movie Trailer – Just to Refresh Your Memory

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1 comment:

Michael said...

Ahhh Captain Trips, amazing what are 24 hour news organizations are doing to mass hysteria nowadays. Heck for all we know the 100 in Mexico, could have been 98 year old geezers, but who knows. It's got a great 'media' friendly name and someone close to home has it.