Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine, Wolf and Drugs

I'm surprised that a state registered coward and instinctive worrier like me isn't in hysterical panic about Swine Flu. The honeymoon couple who are currently in hospital in Airdrie with the first confirmed cases in the UK barely live 15 miles from here. Half the teachers at my daughter's school live near them. Why am I not fretting about living at the epicentre of a Survivoresque Armageddon?

It is of course horrifically sad for those who have died, and news is coming in that an American toddler has become the first person to die outside Mexico.

It's important, I think, to keep everything in perspective though. So far, the vast majority of people outside Mexico with this bug have experienced mild symptoms, - that's certainly true of everyone in the UK. In fact, I probably feel worse, with my Glandular Fever, than they do at the moment. There's also good news that 7 out of their contacts have tested negative.

I'm concerned that the media is whipping us all into an unnecessary frenzy of panic. If Swine Flu amounts to nothing, then when future viruses come along, we'll maybe not listen so closely to the papers and tv and might miss out on important information when we do actually need it. Remember the boy who cried wolf? When the wolf really did come, it was able to eat him up because nobody listened to the warnings. I know that crises sell newspapers, but there has to be some sort of responsibility on the part of the media to report things factually and calmly.

The truth is, that nobody really knows what's going to happen with this virus. Those who are recovering from it are quite lucky in some ways because they will presumably have immunity to it in the future.

I guess that part of the reason people are so worried is that nobody of my generation has any experience of the rapid spread of a potentially fatal illness. We were lucky enough to be immunised to the extent that we almost turned into pincushions so that we did not succumb to the likes of Diphtheria and Whooping Cough. Every British parent today shudders at the thought of Meningitis, and rightly so, but even that danger is, thankfully, very rare. There are very many people who live in horrible circumstances in this country and I don't want to belittle that, but none of us have had to live with the threat of a huge national crisis, be it illness or war. We have been spoiled to a certain extent.

It's important that we all play our part and act responsibly - if we do have flu symptoms, we shouldn't go out, we shouldn't cough or sneeze over people - but let's face it, we shouldn't be doing either of those things anyway, Swine Flu or not.

I suppose, as well, that it won't do us any harm to eat as much fruit and vegetables as we can get our hands on, to make sure that our bodies are well fuelled with the right nutrients should it have to deal with a new virus.

If Swine Flu does become more of a worry, I hope that we do rediscover some sort of community spirit. It would be much easier for my neighbour with flu symptoms to stay in if I went and did their shopping for them and left it outside their door. We have better communications than ever before - we just need to use them and be inventive and make sure that everyone in our community is properly looked after if they need it.

We need to embrace the calm and stoic aspects of our personalities, and ditch the hysteria. I'm concerned that people fight over bread in the shops on Christmas Eve when the shops are only going to be shut for 2 days - that sort of behaviour in the face of the threat of a pandemic is only going to make things worse.

I'm wondering if I'm going to have to get more diligent with my housework and re-aquaint myself with regular use of disinfectant. Will my slovenly ways have to come to an end?

Two thoughts to end with - all this Flu stuff is good for pharmaceutical companies, who turn from pariah to potential saviour in these circumstances. Their share prices are going up.

For the Doctor Who fans out there, I was idly wondering how Stephen Moffat might turn Swine Flu into as story for next year's series with the new Doctor...

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