Okay, I want to start this post with a statement of fact; I am not a doctor or a disease control specialist, nor do I have training in anything related to disease control. I do, however, have common sense, and 30 some odd years experience with being a consumer of the media. Based on all of this experience and common sense, I have one thing to say, “Can everyone just please calm down?”
This swine flu thing has just gotten ridiculous. The media loves it because everyone is scared an following everything they can on this. The CDC loves it because they have a voice right now, and probably believe that they can actually lower the death toll this year from the flu (that’s the generic ‘flu’, meaning every strain), and politicians love it because they can get some additional dollars to spend (Obama is already asking for $1.5B, with a ‘B’, to fight swine flu). The only people who don’t love it are those of us who have actually thought this through.
Let me ask and answer some questions to allow the reader to gain some perspective. Does anyone know how many people each year die in the US from various influenza viruses (flu)? Well I’ll tell ya! (homage to Steve Martin, some of you will get the reference). On average, during the 90’s, 36,000 people died each year from flu-related causes, according to the CDC. Does anyone know how many have died in the U.S. so far from this strain of the flu, commonly called the swine or pig flu? Zero. That’s right, no deaths yet attributed to this flu in the U.S. Even if some do happen, it will be a small percentage, I’m sure, of the overall flu deaths this year. Do you realize, at least at this point, that you are more likely to be killed by an actual pig than by this virus? Chew on that one for a while.
It reminds me a bit of the hysteria that always surrounds shark attacks. It is staggeringly unlikely to die by shark, or even get injured by one, even if you spend a fair amount of time in the ocean. Shark attacks, though, and feeding on people’s irrational fear of sharks, makes for a good news story. I see similar frenzies related to airplane accidents. While airplanes are generally a very safe way to travel or have fun, people, for whatever reason, tend to be scared of them. News agencies and politicians use these types of fears all of the time to create panic for their gain. Now, before someone freaks out, I don’t put most of the blame on those exploiting fear, but mostly on those being exploited. All it takes is a little critical thought and a little self education to realize you don’t have to be susceptible to exploit in this way. It does beg the question though; which came first, the irrational fears that people have or the hysteria created by the media? Interesting anthropological question…does the hysteria creation and fear mongering just feed on these fears, or partially cause them, too?
Back to the virus. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be told about this strain or variation of the virus, or that people shouldn’t try to keep from spreading the flu (again, generic flu, as in any strain); this is common sense. But personally I believe this hysteria is way overblown and everyone needs to just take a deep breath and get on with your life. Nothing to see here, folks. Disagree? Convince me. Leave comments on what you think.