Wednesday, November 04, 2009

People, pigs and the flu

Yesterday, as I was arriving home and going up on the elevator coming from the basement, it stopped on the ground floor and this little girl came in with her mother. Even before they came in I could hear some serious coughing and I confirmed that said coughing came from the little girl.

Now, I'm not one to usually panic about these things, but truth is that I found myself thinking of the swine flu and holding my breath until I exited the elevator. And as soon as I realized that, I understood that these whole months of media coverage and fear culture around H1N1 have finally caught up with me.

Later on, I sat down to dinner and... big surprise, the main headline was about H1N1. Over and over and over again.

I have to be honest, at a certain point I stopped caring about news in regards to H1N1. I followed it at the start, when it was still in Mexico and the first people who were diagnosed were dropping like flies. Yes, that scared the living crap out of me. But I also noticed that those people were probably infected a LONG time before they were diagnosed and that the whole reason why they were diagnosed in the first place is because they had gone so far down the road that they had no choice other than go see a doctor. Let's face it, rural areas aren't exactly top notch in regards to medical care.

From what I could research about it, swine flu is actually a common event amongst pigs. And even pig to human infection, albeit uncommon, is not unheard of. What really blows the whistle on this one is 1) the infection rate and 2) the fact that this current strain is made from the re-sequencing of 4 different strains of flu: North-American bird flu, North-American swine flu, normal human flu and a strain of swine flu found in Europe and Asia (thanks Wikipedia!).

Now, what I personally think that went wrong here was that, once it was confirmed that the death ratio wasn't as high as initially predicted, there was no real concern with demystifying the idea that this flu was a replay of the 1918 Spanish Flu or a more contagious version of the more recent Avian Flu. And, naturally, most people absorb what the media tells them without thinking too much about it, so if you only get scary news reports, guess what? You get scared!

This kind of things isn't limited to this event though. How many times have we witnessed the media blowing everything out of proportion, just for the sake of ratings? When was the last time that you actually sat down to eat, turned on the TV and actually saw a decent, informed report about this flu, carefully explaining what it was and how to fight it without making you feel like you will die if you get it?

I would like to end this entry by paraphrasing a comic from People are surprised that about 10% of the world's population is depressed. Considering the state of the world and the status quo, I'm surprised that the remaining 90% aren't depressed!

I'll see you around! ;)

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