Swine Flu

So if you haven’t heard of the latest pandemic, it’s swine flu! While I’ve heard everyone talking about it, I haven’t heard anyone really describe what it is, how it’s different from other kinds of flu, etc. Has anyone heard of why it’s “swine” flu? I know they said that the genetic material of the virus is of a Eurasian swine background (not a North American one, apparently) but I don’t remember hearing about a pandemic virus killing off great numbers of pigs any time recently. Are they just carriers who are actually immune to the virus? I’m not sure. However, every time there is a new possible pandemic that emerges, it is interesting to sit back and watch the panic and posturing that goes on. I’m not trying to sound callus, it’s just that as news media latches on to each new story, with blazing headlines and colorful graphics with daunting music for segment titles on programs, people tend to whip themselves into a huge frenzy before anything concrete starts to emerge that might actually be newsworthy. Obviously in our modern world a pandemic has the opportunity to spread much, much more quickly that it would have even one hundred years ago. Travel is available in a variety of different mediums, nearly all of which are significantly faster than anything that used to be available. Because of the population explosion that has occurred even over the last fifty years, there are a greater number of people living together in the same area of land, meaning that the disease or virus has a much better chance of finding a new host very quickly, even long before it would damage or kill the first one.

The ATA has been all up in arms over Vice President Biden’s comments about not using air travel or traveling in other confined spaces, but the CDC isn’t as worried as the VP. Though the pandemic level has been bumped up to “5” today and the WHO is instructing countries to mobilize (or at least dust off) their pandemic preparedness plans, there are still few things known about the pandemic and so it is really too hard to say what is and is not a proper precautionary measure. Though it is not necessary to cease air travel, stop taking public transportation, or stop shopping at the grocery store, it is important to cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze and cough, to wash your hands regularly or use an alcohol-based sanitizer if you’re not near a bathroom, and to rest up if you start to feel symptomatic. These are normal, basic measures that people should be taking on a daily basis no matter what the time of year, simply because it’s proper hygiene – not to mention courteous to those around you. It seems like standard operating procedures like these are revived every time there is a “new” pandemic (which is never really seems to come to fruition as an actual pandemic) and then quickly forgotten once the excitement has worn off. Hopefully someday people will begin to pay more attention to taking care of themselves and those around them all of the time, not just when some fancy new virus pops up.

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