In case you haven't heard, there's a new flu in town. Growing up in [what was once] a small town not that many people moved in during the school year so it was always a big deal when there was a new kid in the class. Waves were made when she sat down in someone's desk. Let's not even discuss throwing off the lunchroom seating dynamics. The newbie was all the rage for a few days especially if he or she moved in from far off and exotic places like...Tennessee. Perhaps we didn't really want to become best friends with this new person, but we wanted to know everything there was to know about the poor kid. [I think some people refer to this as being incredibly nosy.] And then after a week or so the buzz died down, life resumed as usual, new kid became a regular kid.
Personally, after 3 days of constant media attention I'm ready for the Swine Flu to become a "regular kid" so to speak. In fact I was so desperate for a non-Swine flu related news article yesterday that I resorted to reading about how Hugh Hefner is pining away for his one true love. A part of me wonders how we would all be reacting were it not for the media and its ability to over dramaticize [which is even more dramatic than 'over dramatize'] everything. So instead of getting swept away in the frenzy, I've decided to educate myself with the facts - just the facts - and then I'll determine whether or not I'm going to order a designer face mask.
Fact: Swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza virus. Basically pigs get the flu just like people do.
Fact: There are multiple strains of the swine flu virus. Just as there are multiple strains of human influenza.
Fact: Swine can contract human flu from people. Humans can contract swine flu from swine. Swine can contract avian flu from birds. But only when they fly. (Ba duh dum!)
Fact: The swine flu virus does not normally infect humans. In the situations when it does occur though, the virus can be transmitted person-to-person just as our good friend, the human flu, is transmitted.
Fact: Sudden oinking is not a symptom of swine flu. That's a symptom of weirdness.
Fact: Symptoms of swine flu in people are very similar to the symptoms of human flu - fever, cough, sore throat, aches, chills, etc. Some folks have needed Pepto as well though when suffering from swine flu. Ugh. Because of the similar symptoms, this leads me to wonder about how many people have been walking around with it [and are recovering from it] thinking that it was just the regular old flu. I'm willing to wager that there are many, but now that we've got a new name and know that it originates from dirty, stinky pigs everybody is suddenly on high alert. We don't seem to mind those dirty, stinky pigs so badly though when we're eating our breakfast specials at the local IHOP.
Fact: Humans cannot contract swine flu from eating pork. So please enjoy your breakfast special at the local IHOP this weekend without reservation. Unless of course you're worried about high cholesterol, clogged arteries, and heart disease.
Fact: 36,000 people die in the United States each year from the flu. Some flu seasons have been more severe than others. We just had a pretty severe one a couple of years back.
Fact: Common sense goes a long way in terms of prevention. Remember all of those basic things we learned about hygiene back when we were learning how to read and properly feed ourselves with a fork? Do them. In the event that you were raised in a barn and shared a sty with the pigs, please look here for a quick 10 step lesson.
Fact: The word "Pandemic" can result in pandemonium if we're not careful. Unsure of what pandemic means? I was too. Until I read this.
Fact: Panicking is of no benefit to anyone. In fact, I believe that 300,000 pigs are losing their lives today because of panic.
So those are the facts that I've gathered. Sure, it's a little disconcerting when it's all you see on the news and read about in the headlines. When it's so prevalent everywhere you look, people begin to experience psychosomatic symptoms [for you non-psychology majors out there that means "it's all in your head"] themselves. Let's try not to do that folks because when you rush off to the doctor [prematurely] the insurance companies win. Or something like that.
Why are we so worried about this? Because it's running rampant in Mexico and coming this way. Even though the disparities are great which is really quite sad, we have to remember the differences between our quality of life and the quality of life down there. It's new. We live in a society of instant gratification and we like to fix things. So when we can't fix something quickly (i.e., developing a vaccine against it) we don't react well.
If you are so inclined to learn more, I would recommend sticking with pretty reliable and non-biased sources. Like the CDC, for example. This website gives you current data and information about what states cases have been confirmed in and all of that jazz.
Please remember as you are reading this that I am by no means a medical professional. This fact is true despite the countless hours I have sat in front of the television watching General Hospital, House, and Grey's Anatomy. However I do live in a town that emphasizes the importance of Pandemic Flu readiness. Everywhere. You. Go.
This has been a public service announcement by Just Me...HP.