Wednesday, April 29, 2009

All swine flu... all the time?

Oldest Son made it back safely from San Antonio this week. He and his fiance had been visiting her family there... just as the swine flu "pandemic" was breaking into the headlines. There were reported swine flu cases in San Antonio... and, according to Oldest Son, "the west side of town is in Mexico," from whence this latter-day plague has sprung. (Oldest Son reports that he, personally, is in fine health. So, too, his fiance and her entire family.)

The word "pandemic" is rendered in quotes in the preceding paragraph because this is the word being used -- or rather badly misused -- in so much of the breathless media coverage.

A "pandemic" is an epidemic on steroids: It's not just a contagious disease spreading in a community, it's a disease spreading like a wildfire in dry brush, rapidly blanketing whole regions, entire countries....

Sure, this latest virus may yet become a pandemic; in our crowded, connected world any outbreak of contagious disease has that unhappy possibility.

But it ain't there yet.

Oldest Son was waxing cranky about this as we Google-chatted during yesterday's lunch hour.

"Please put your mask on before you continue typing," I cautioned him. I sprayed Lysol on my keyboard and screen whilst waiting for his reply... just in case.

"This is panic over nothing," harrumphed Oldest Son. At least his typing appeared like a harrumph in the corner of my screen.

"That's because you're too young to remember 1918," I typed.

"Um, Dad...."

OK, I guess he had me on that one.

"Besides," he added, "we don't use leeches any more."

"They didn't use leeches in 1918 either. And this is a virus -- antibiotics aren't going to help. Tamiflu reduces symptoms for some people, but not all. So we're not as far ahead of 1918 as you might think, smart guy."

Our conversation thereafter drifted to other topics... but the swine flu has stayed on my mind.

How can it not? Every TV channel and radio station is bleating about it at this very moment.

For people like me, this is disaster.

A million years ago, when I was but a lad, we had only three TV networks. A staple of network television in those far-off days was the made-for-TV movie. This was a way for a network to fill up a goodly chunk of time without investing in a series. A favorite topic of these movies was loathsome disease. My father referred to these as the 'disease of the week' movies.

I was soon banned from watching them.

If the hero broke out in green spots, I was sure I had green spots by the second commercial break. If the protagonist saw purple spots before his eyes, so did I. I had a classic case of cathode-ray contagion -- which was cured only when my parents forbade me to watch any more of these movies.

But the cure is only temporary. With all this blather about swine flu... I'm feeling faint and feverish.

Go ahead.

Touch the screen.

Doesn't it feel warm?

See the problem?

If you must leave a comment today, wear a mask. For both our sakes.


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

okay i just washed my hands. again. but i am not staying inside. i am going to live and whatever happens, happens. (until i get it and then i'll sing a different tune)

smiles, bee

The Beach Bum said...

Curmudgeon –

I don’t watch television news but the Swine Flu scare is all over the print media also.

We have a lot of Mexicans (some of them are actually legal) here in Florida, so I have sequestered myself in the Shed (my office) to avoid contact with anyone who has made contact with a Mexican. My daughter returned from her monthly journey to Maryland yesterday and the first thing that I asked her was if she had made contact with any Mexicans. There are a lot of them in the Tampa Airport.

I’ve been feeling a little feverous for the past few days and wonder if I have caught the Swine Flu from reading the stories on line. As a child I caught many ailments from watching medical programs television. Later I learned that this is called Münchausen syndrome.

Don’t worry about catching the Flu from this comment as I have sanitized myself and well as my computer and all the peripherals.

The Beach Bum

Shelby said...

I washed my hands several times today on behalf of the pandemic scare.

I feel fine.

Glad to hear you and yours are as well.

Tell them to stay north now tho.

Unknown said...

In New Jersey, 7 case of Swine flu have broken out as of 4 May. Three days later - four, rather - New Jersey, a small state with 8 million residents, five million of which are jammed into the top six counties just outside of New York, has kept the number from rising.

I suddenly love New Jersey that much more.

Illinois, New York, California, Arizona and Wisconsin are states I don't want to see or visit. So far, in four days, they've risen alarmingly fast:

4 May: 8 May:
New York 70 174
Illinois 8 392
California 47 107
Arizona 3 131
Wisconsin (low) 240

In late June I will be visiting Montana. They aren't on the list. I can suddenly see David's point to living there, although this wasn't why he moved there. But clearly being remote has its good points.

Texas has 93 cases and two deaths.

Terms: Outbreak is a term used in epidemiology to describe an occurrence of disease greater than would otherwise be expected in a particular time and place. It may be small and localized group or impact upon thousands of people across an entire continent. Two linked cases of a rare infectious disease may be sufficient to constitute an outbreak. Outbreaks may also refer to epidemics, which affect a region in a country or a group of countries, or pandemics, which describe global disease outbreaks.

Well, I guess it is a pandemic situation, but with a little caution and care, most of us will be fine. I'm an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) and have yet to run into the Swine Flu. Good thing, because my errant sense of humour makes me think that people who contract it and become symptomatic will start oinking!

Nonetheless, I'm not going to stop living. And that is the bottom line, isn't it?

Just to reassure you, my computer has not begun oinking, either.