AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!! SWINE FLU! The swine flu is upon us! We’re all gonna die! Repent! REPENT!
All right, people, pull your heads out from between your butt cheeks for a second, okay? Good, now listen up. This swine flu – or as they want to call it now, the H1N1 flu (how sexy) – is…are you ready?
A strain transmittable between animals and humans, and yeah, that’s unusual, but even that isn’t a factor here; the strain hitting the U.S. now is not “zoonotic,” which means it doesn’t jump species.
What makes this strain so special (read: unnecessarily terrifying)? Let’s see what the Centers for Disease Control says about that:
The symptoms of this new influenza A H1N1 virus in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. A significant number of people who have been infected with this virus also have reported diarrhea and vomiting. Also, like seasonal flu, severe illnesses and death has occurred as a result of illness associated with this virus.
Wow, that’s…uh…that’s completely ordinary. In fact, most resources I’ve found say that something as simple as Tamiflu will fix people up nicely.
But wait, you say! What about that “death” thing the CDC mentioned? Isn’t that worth flying into a screaming panic fit?
No, you dolt, it isn’t. In a given year, a normal flu virus (or complications from the same) kills about 36,000 people, and that’s an estimate. Many of those people are the ones who are told every winter to get a flu shot as they’re especially vulnerable: kids, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.
As I post this on Monday morning, the CDC has confirmed 226 cases of H1N1 and only one death, an infant – hardly a sign that in a few days half of us will be going to hook up with Randall Flagg in Las Vegas while the rest of us go to chill with Mother Abigail in Nebraska.
But it’s a pandemic, you fool! you’re most likely screaming at the screen now. What have you got to say about that, Mr. Smart Guy?!
The word “pandemic” is the new greatly misunderstood word of the week (supplanting “socialism” and “fascism”). A true pandemic refers to a disease that is relatively new to a given population center that, in part because of its unfamiliarity to the natives, spreads quickly and easily.
The H1N1 virus was the culprit behind the 1918 pandemic that killed an estimated 20 million to 100 million people worldwide, and what really took out a lot of those people – very healthy people, I add – was a condition called a “cytokine storm,” in which the person’s immune system went into crazy overdrive trying to fend off the virus and winds up attacking healthy cells. So far the CDC has found no evidence that this strain stands to trigger a similar reaction in the infected, or even stands to be more severe than your garden variety flu.
This doesn’t mean that you can go around licking every stranger with a cough — I mean, let’s be sensible, shall we? — but we’re not looking at the Black Plague of the 21st century either. So, in the immortal words of the (ironically) late Douglas Adams, don’t panic.
The views and opinions in the Enterprise blogs are those of the author and are not neccessarily shared by Falmouth Publishing.