Swine Flu Insanity

panflu1A friend told me yesterday that she was ‘scared to death’ of getting swine flu. I asked her why and she said, “Seriously?! Have you been watching the news?!” I said that yes, I had been watching. I also told her that I wasn’t concerned about swine flu at all. She seemed surprised, so I told her a few facts I had learned about the flu.

Regular old seasonal flu kills something like 36,000 Americans every year. Americans. We have some of the best health care in the world, and we lose 36,000 people per year to flu. As usual, those most at risk of serious illness and death are the very old and the very young. Who do we see worldwide being killed by swine flu? The very old and the very young. And how many deaths have we seen worldwide? Less than 200 in Mexico, the ‘epicenter’ of the ‘imminent pandemic’, and one in the U.S. It doesn’t even come close to the number of Americans who die from seasonal flu every year.

There have been serious flu pandemics before (and many more scares and pandemic threats). In 1918 a strain of flu known as Spanish Flu killed more than 50 million people. In 1957 the Asian Flu raised the U.S. death toll to around 68,000, a little less than twice normal. Swine flu itself was first identified in 1976 and labelled a pandemic threat, but never spread beyond the area it was discovered in. Most recently, in 1997 and 1999 there was the Bird Flu madness that killed a total of (wait for it…) 8 people.

So why are people losing their minds over Swine Flu? I think it’s because our news media needs something to talk about. The talking heads need something to keep themselves in their position as the informed know-it-alls who help us average American bumpkins navigate our confusing lives. They also need the advertising dollars that pay their salaries as we’re glued to coverage of our latest ‘public health emergency’. The Centers for Disease Control and World Health Orginazation are trying to save face after their initial over-reaction by continuing to insist that swine flu is a serious threat and that we should all be on our guard, travel less, wear surgical masks, and not shake hands with people.

Be smart, people. The influenza virus is a nasty little bug every year. Swine flu, the H1N1 variation, seems to be a pretty mild strain, as far as flu strains go. Take care of yourselves. Wash your hands frequently. Don’t get sick. But most of all, don’t buy into all the panic hype. Don’t let the media run your life.



One Response to “Swine Flu Insanity”

  1. Spencer Adams Says:

    You’re right in saying the medai needs fuel to burn, but I also think that a lot of people like having something to be afraid of. I gives them something to take their minds off whatever it is that’s bothering them. The two reasons we don’t have this problem in Australia is that we are so isolated, and our general attitude leads us to not care much about anything of this nature.

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