Saturday, May 2, 2009

When Pigs (swine) Fly (flu)

A single death is a tragedy. The Media calls it a PANDEMIC

The Russians Are Coming… The Russians Are Coming: A comedy movie released in 1966 had a theme of a Soviet sub that that ran aground in New England after its Captain tried to get a glimpse of America. Residents of the harbor town panicked when they concluded it was the beginning of an invasion. Each year some 40,000 people in America die from the flu. Not any particular kind of flu, just the flu. 40,000. That is more than 100 deaths per day from the ordinary old everyday flu and all its cousins. ABC, NBC, and CBS do not lead off with stories about flu deaths. CNN, Fox and the other cable news channels don’t give it 24-hour coverage. We are not bombarded in the newspapers with people wearing masks and racing to return home from the land of tacos and tamales, and there is no talk in Congress about closing our borders. Flights are not cancelled and vice presidents do not appear on magazine TV shows saying that he advises his family members not to travel by plane, rail, subway, or in a car whose other occupants are strangers. Yet every day some 100 people die from the effects of the flu in the USA. Over 100 every day, 40,000 per year over and over.

What a difference a strain makes: The recent panic to hit the airwaves, ink print, and other media might be considered the remake of that movie renamed, “The Swine-flu is Coming, The Swine-flu is Coming.” To date there have been 111 cases of Swine-flu. That is just the number of SUSPECTED cases. Deaths in the US from swine flu? One. A 23 month-toddler who suffered from other illnesses was flown to a hospital in Houston and perished. Thus far, the score for the year is: All flu deaths this year to date: 12,000. Swine flu deaths this year to date: One. Although the regular flu “pandemic” possibility has resulted in zero precautions suggested by pundits or the World Health Organization, the following precautions have been taken for Swine flu:

Lock up your women and children – your menfolk too: More than 300 schools, most of which have had no symptoms have been closed for fear of contagion according to the US Education Department. The closed schools in 11 states provided sick-day vacations to more than 172,000 students. The number of students sent home exceeds the entire student population of Dallas or Detroit school districts. Initial reports of the Swine flu came from Mexico where there had been some 168 deaths attributed to the new strain – but none reported in the past 10 days. Thus anything Mexican-related has caused panic. In a suburban Detroit school district a student who had been to Mexico on spring break came down with flu symptoms. The entire school closed in a panic. Test results showed it was not Swine flu.

Better Safe than Sorry, Or Silly: Some other (over) reactions to the media blitz included: College Board Tests (SAT and AP) were cancelled at dozens of locations, a high school near Syracuse was closed for cleaning and disinfecting because one student reported flu-like symptoms, Slippery Rock University refused to allow 22 students to participate in regular graduation ceremonies because they had vacationed in Mexico, even though none had flu symptoms, University of Michigan suspended all travel to Mexico and urged students already there to return immediately, University of Delaware cancelled all baseball and softball road games. The Education Department strongly urges school closings when there is a confirmed or suspected case of a parent or sibling of a student and further urges unaffected schools and child-care facilities to “begin to prepare for the possibility” of closures. Could they be desperately seeking Susan – as in Swine flu Susan, cousin of Typhoid Mary?

Serious Impact of Swine Flu: The most recent comparison of the Swine-flu panic is with the outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2003 which resulted in 8,000 deaths in 29 countries. The economic impact in Asia was $ 18 billion including $ 15 billion in tourism. Tourist centers in the U.S., including Las Vegas, already hard hit by the economic crisis, fear a similar loss. If the Swine flu becomes pandemic, Vancouver, which will host the 2010 Olympics is concerned about what course of action they might take. Swine flu, officially named Flu H1N1 by the CDC (Center for Disease Control), is being cited by the WHO (World Health Organization) as possibly becoming a pandemic. Italy, Poland, Venezuela, and China have advised their citizens not to travel to the U.S. for fear of the illness.

Epidemic... Pandemic... huh?: Epidemic is defined as “a widespread outbreak of an infectious disease; many people are infected at the same time.” Pandemic is defined as an “epidemic over a wide geographical area.” Several countries around the world are reacting in an even more panicked mode than the U.S. China worked aggressively to track down people who may have been near a sick Mexican tourist, sealing 305 people inside a Hong Kong hotel where he stayed and hospitalizing 15 fellow passengers. The man developed a fever after arriving in the Chinese territory and was isolated in stable condition Saturday. No evidence of Swine flu was reported. In Mexico there have been no reported deaths from the Swine flu in several days and health officials there suggest the worst might be over.

Silly season of the Swine flu: Politicians and pundits have wasted little time spinning the Swine flu media blitz into opportunities to promote their cause. A congressman suggested that the infant who died from Swine flu (the only victim thus far in the U.S.) might have been an illegal immigrant. She wasn’t, but the very attempt to use this tragedy for political gain is despicable. A right-wing radio talk show host reportedly suggested that the president has spread the Swine flu as he recently returned from a trip to Mexico. The president had no flu symptoms. At this point it is too early to determine if the action surrounding the Swine flu was an overreaction and “Much Ado About Nothing,” or if sensible precautions were taken. But at this point the score in the U.S. remains: Death from flu this year 12,000. Deaths from Swine flu this year: 1.

A little blogging music Maestro... From Iron Maiden, “Fear of the Dark.”

Dr. Forgot

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