(The following was published in the Newsleader on May 8, 2009)
(Editor's note: An updated death toll in Mexico attributed to the H1N1 flu has been revised recently to 15.)
This morning the news is all about the so-called swine flu. The breathless report I just heard is that one hundred fifty people have died in Mexico since the outbreak started. You cannot turn on any news report or read any major newspaper without seeing almost total emphasis on the flu. It is as if there is nothing else going on in the world.
I would like to try and offer some perspective. First let us consider Mexico. The population of Mexico is at last count just over 110,000,000. With 150 deaths that represents just .00013% of the population. I wonder how many people died from bee stings in this same period of time. How about snake bites? This does not mean that the flu deaths were any less tragic or that they were less important. It only serves to put this matter into some semblance of perspective. Would you be surprised to learn that since January several thousand people in our own country have died from the so-called normal strain of influenza?
Some may remember a column I wrote which The Newsleaders recently published entitled “We’re All Going to Die”. This column dealt with the fears and the fear mongering that seems to prevail in the media. There is no doubt that there is a lot out there to be afraid of, but remember perspective…perspective. If we spend our lives in fear, we have a better chance of dying from stress than from any of the calamities threatened by the news.
Now don’t get me wrong. We definitely should take serious this flu warning as we should take serious all threats to our health and security. As things stand right now however, you have a better chance of getting clobbered in the head by a meteorite than from dying of the swine flu.
So what should be our response? How shall we deal with the information with which we are being inundated? I offer these few suggestions. Be smart. Be safe. Be careful. As with all flu seasons, cover your cough. Avoid sick people. If you are sick, stay at home and don’t go to work or to school. Wash your hands regularly. Get your proper rest and nourishment. If you do get the symptoms, get yourself to the doctor and get treated. Protect others in your life by staying clear of them for a while. In a short time this will go away as do all such threats.
It is interesting to note that when this same strain of flu showed itself on our shores in the past, only one person died from it. It has been reported that several hundred people died from the vaccination to prevent that flu. As I said earlier, perspective, perspective.
Incidentally, you cannot get swine flu from eating pork products. As a matter of fact, the use of the term swine flu is improper. Influenza is a respiratory ailment that infects people and pigs as well as birds. The virus mutates and is constantly changing. I am told the proper name for this disease is North American Flu. There is medication available to treat this strain and soon I am sure there will be vaccines to prevent it all together.
As for me, I just hope that fish don’t get it because I plan to have a very close personal relationship with several in the very near future.
Ron Scarbro April 29, 2009
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