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Sunday, May 3, 2009

It's Just The Flu!

When CNN sent Dr. Sanjay Gupta to Mexico this past week with a surgical mask on his face, and began showing maps of the spread of this mysterious Swine Flu over the globe, I knew something was out of whack. What struck me was not the spread of the disease, but the treatment of the story as if we were being invaded by creatures from another planet.

It got worse from there, of course. Planes were diverted or grounded because someone felt sick, schools were shut down, anyone who had recently been to Mexico was practically sent into isolation. Some kids are missing their high school graduation ceremony because they were in Mexico, not because they are sick. Is this not just a little bit over the top?

As of the publication date of this blog, the numbers of people who have fallen ill WORLD WIDE are less than 1,000, but for some reason the news organizations keep using words like "jumping" or "spiking" every time a few more are added. Let's put this into perspective: there are more than 6 billion people in the world and over 700 of them are sick. Let's be generous...let's say 800 people. Okay, 6 billion to 800... It's the HYSTERIA that has gotten out of control, not the Swine Flu. 

Hospital emergency wards are now experiencing this hysteria in the worst way; those who are seriously and legitimately ill are having to wait much longer than usual because every person with a bad stomach is running into the emergency ward screaming "Swine Flu!!! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.......!!!"

And here's the worst of the worst: someone has actually created a Swine Flu app for the iPhone. Yep, it's true. Now you can map the spread of the disease via iPhone or even Google maps. 

Oh. My. God.

Now let's get a little information from some more legitimate sources. First, the World Health Organization. I am copying info directly from their website.

First, let's address the travel restrictions that have been flying around (sorry for the pun): "WHO is not recommending travel restrictions related to the outbreak of the Influenza A(H1N1) virus. Limiting travel and imposing travel restrictions would have very little effect on stopping the virus from spreading, but would be highly disruptive to the global community. "

I can see that you might be nervous about going to Mexico. So don't. But there was even talk at some point about closing the borders between the US and Mexico. Come on, people, you can't stop the air from crossing borders! Quick, get on your masks! Have you seen them? Everybody's got one after seeing Sanjay Gupta! I saw a street interview with a person in Toronto who says he counted ten people wearing masks as he was making his way down a busy street.

From the Montreal Gazette: "The Public Health Agency of Canada is not recommending that healthy people wear masks as they go about their daily lives in the community.'There is no evidence to suggest that wearing masks will prevent the spread of infection in the general population.' "

It's called the Swine Flu, so don't eat pork! From the Montreal Gazette: "Given that it's called the swine flu virus, can one become infected from eating pork? No. Unlike listeriosis, swine flu is not a food-borne illness." From W.H.O.: "Is it safe to eat pork and pork products? Yes. influenza A(H1N1) has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating properly handled and prepared pork (pig meat) or other products derived from pigs." The W.H.O. has finally stopped calling it Swine Flu.

So I had to laugh when I saw a story that a couple of pigs had gotten the flu from a farmer in Alberta. Can you imagine the gossip flying around the pig community? Stay away from people or you'll get human flu!

The W.H.O. could be accused of creating alarm when it raised the "alert level" from 4 to 5. How high it goes, I can't figure out. Maybe 5 is the highest and we should all just pack it in. It reminds me somewhat of the alert levels in the U.S. after 9/11...from yellow to orange, to red. Panic a little bit more than you did yesterday, but not as much as you should tomorrow. What is the point of alert levels, other than to scare the shit out of everyone? Sorry.

More from the W.H.O.: "On the positive side, the world is better prepared for an influenza pandemic than at any time in history. Preparedness measures undertaken because of the threat from H5N1 avian influenza were an investment, and we are now benefitting from this investment. For the first time in history, we can track the evolution of a pandemic in real-time." Yeah, on your iPhone, for instance.

Maybe we're just tired of hearing about how crappy the economy is. But honest to pete, people, it's just the flu.

IJ 

PS - by the way, as of May 17th, 2009, there are over 8,000 people WORLDWIDE who have contracted the H5N1 virus...however, according to the CDC: "Each flu season is unique, but it is estimated that, on average, approximately 5% to 20% of U.S. residents get the flu, and more than 200,000 persons are hospitalized for flu-related complications each year. About 36,000 Americans die on average per year from the complications of flu." Does that put it in better perspective??