Thursday, April 30, 2009

A pig in a poke

Swine flu may be the most overblown story of 2009 so far. It’s my bet that it’ll take the title come year’s end.

Maybe it’s a kind of crisis hypersensitivity. We all got conditioned to the economic news getting worse and worse — continually exceeding expectations for bad news.

So as soon as the swine flu story broke, everybody seemed to immediately go to the worst case scenario. Every hypochondriac nerve in the population started jangling. Wait... I’m getting a sore throat. I’M GONNA DIE!!!

Well, no. Turns out that swine flu, though it has claimed lives in Mexico, isn’t all that deadly. It’s not the 1918 flu. It’s probably not even an average year’s flu.

Why do we do this? Every year thousands of people die from complications of seasonal flu (36,000 in the U.S. is the number currently being reported. So far, swine flu has claimed one life in the U.S. — of a little boy who came here from Mexico and had underlying health conditions).

Influenza can be deadly, especially if you have underlying medical problems. I’ve had the real-deal flu a couple of times and I can see how it could kill you. I’ve got a pretty stout constitution and it wiped me out.

But the flu is a normal part of life and most years, most people don’t get it. Those that do mostly suffer and recover. Some die.
Eventually there will be another 1918-style pandemic and boy that is scary. A lot of people died in that one and, perversely, it disproportionately affected the young and healthy.

Those kinds of pandemics happen very rarely. It makes sense to plan ahead and for public health and emergency agencies to coordinate a response. I don’t fault the CDC and the World Health Organization for tracking a new mutation of a virus and informing the public. That’s their job.

But I do fault the national media for climbing all over the story with a maximum of hype and bombast and a credulous public for reacting as if the sky was falling.

I guess there’s something extra scary about the idea of a virus spreading silently, deadly, like a conscious malign force. It’s the stuff of Stephen King novels; in fact he wrote the story in The Stand.

But c’mon folks, let’s keep things in proportion here. Take the usual flu season precautions — you’re gonna be okay.

...Until SKYNET becomes self aware and launches a nuclear strike, destroying most of mankind and launching a war between humankind and cyborgs. Where are you John Connor????...

Jim Cornelius, Editor


  1. Malaria infects 300 to 500 million people a year, killing one to three million of them. And yet I don't see a graphic on CNN stating: Deadly Malaria, There is nowhere to hide!

    The media just loves a sensational story! (no offense, Jim)

  2. Could this have been the left wing’s smoke screen to slide the nomination for Health and Human Services through unopposed due need to have someone in charge of that department? Rahm Emanuel is has admitted that he is not one to let a good crisis go by without making the most of it. Am I the only one who noticed that after Kathleen Sebelius was confirmed that the Swine Flu is now referred to as H1N1? Yes we are alive and crisis is over and Sebelius is the Secretary without a fight. Well done Mr. Emanuel, most effective.

  3. Was there supposed to be a fight over Kathleen Sebelius?

    Too bad we missed out on that. I m sure that involve some really good wedge issues designed to divide us in to Us and Them groups.