One Flu Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Have you had enough of the swine flu pandemonium yet?
You can't turn on a TV, power up your computer or open a newspaper without seeing a flurry of flu fanaticism.
There are plenty of reasons not to panic just yet about the dangers of this captivating disease. There are signs the flu (the H1-N1 strain, to be exact) may be tapering off, according to an Associated Press report on Saturday, May 2. Mexican health officials say they’ve contained the swine flu epidemic. They add that very few family members of infected people caught the disease. That means this breed of influenza may not be hyper-contagious.
There are plenty of reasons not to panic just yet about the dangers of this captivating disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, so far, the swine flu is behaving more like a regular seasonal flu than something worth panicking about. Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the CDC, says it doesn't appear to have the virulence factors that propelled the 1918 pandemic flu, which killed more than 25 million people worldwide.
There was one confirmed case from New Mexico and more than a dozen suspected cases at press time.
Committed racists are looking on the brighter side of a possible pandemic and using the virus as a vehicle to bash Mexican immigrants.
Everyone, please take a deep breath, make some tea and relax. Oh, and don't read the rest of that aforementioned AP article reporting the good news about no new deaths. It's filled with terrifying facts about why we should still be wetting our pants. (Incidentally, wetting your pants is a sign you definitely have the swine flu.)
The virus is now in Latin America, Europe and Asia, the story says. There's always the possibility the flu strain could mutate, the article continues, and if it does, who knows what might happen? I'm paraphrasing, but you get the gist. Grab the duct tape and dust off your favorite surgical mask. The apocalypse may come yet.
It's not fair to get mad at the AP for reporting what health experts are saying, but providing some perspective would be nice. In an article titled " Scientists see this flu strain as relatively mild," the Los Angeles Times quotes molecular virologist Christopher Olsen. He notes that normal seasonal influenza kills tens of thousands of people worldwide each year, and nobody raises much of a fuss about flu season. Swine flu has been confirmed as the cause of fewer than 300 deaths.
Committed racists are looking on the brighter side of a possible pandemic and using the virus as a vehicle to bash Mexican immigrants. The watchdog group Media Matters reports that radio host Michael Savage has called for the Mexican border to be closed immediately, saying it’s illegal aliens who are bringing the flu to the United States. Fellow radio zealot Neal Boortz has nicknamed the disease "fajita flu" and CNN's resident wet-saddle-face Lou Dobbs calls it "Mexican flu."
Make no mistake. If this virus starts killing millions of people, I'll be the first one shoving senior citizens out of the way to board the spaceship to Mars. But until that day comes, we can’t let the media get us all worked up.