I can't help but feel skeptical about the swine flu (almost) pandemic. I have heard or read so many different expert opinions that I can't decide if I should take advantage of the cheap flight rates and immediately fly to Mexico or purchase a hyperbolic bubble and move to an uninhabited island in Nunavut.
This morning I listened to a medical expert on CBC talk about how the current strain of swine flu is 'mild' and there is little to fear. He gave a comparison to SARS. With SARS, according to this guy, there was 1 in 10 chance of death but that the swine flu had, at worst, a 1 in 500 chance. Considering that outside of Mexico there may not even be 500 infected people, that's not a bad number. And in a given year, according to the all-knowing and infallible wikipedia, the usual epidemic has a worldwide death rate of 1 in 100.
But then on the other hand there are the experts who are advising countries to load up on Tamiflu and the like. And big-pharmas are standing on the sidelines wringing their hands hoping that's exactly what countries do. Some of the biggest boom times for them was when the Avian flu was going to supposedly ravage the world population. We watched while people like Donald Rumsfeld pushed the concerns of the pending Avian flu pandemic and profited from owning shares connected the anti-viral. Is that what we're facing again? Another false alarm that will only cause some big company to make more money?
Well, not so according to an expert from Mount Sinai in Toronto. This woman was all about us being vigilant and taking all precautions to prevent the spread of swine flu. And maybe she has a point, especially where I am concerned. After all, of the four reported cases in Ontario three are in the Durham region and the nature of my job puts me in close contact with hundreds of people each day. And given the environment of my job, it wouldn't take long for my 'office' to resemble one of the hard hit Mexican villages. Also, seeing that Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag have isolated themselves in Mexico to avoid infection then we should definitely all be concerned. Anyway, the doc from Mount Sinai said the best response to the pending pandemic is social distancing. Avoiding social gatherings and recreational outings will slow the spread and limit the number of infections.
Between Avian flu, West Nile virus, Swine flu, seasonal influenza, common colds, random bacteria, mad cow, psycho squirrel and the like, if we were to significantly react to every warning our society wouldn't function, we wouldn't live our lives, we wouldn't breed and we would all starve to death.
My point is that panicking should be saved for times of panic. Unless you're in a small Mexican village or the crowded downtown of Mexico City where the quality of medical service isn't of the highest degree and the general level of environmental cleanliness isn't exactly excellent, then sure, I get being quite worried. But when the mortality rate is five times better than the yearly, general epidemics, are thousands of kilometres away from ground zero, little correlation to Mexico or people visiting there and have access to world-class medical services, panicking at this point seems somewhat far-fetched.
I'm not attempting to minimize how this outbreak has affected those who have lost loved ones or are suffering from this. And this is not to say that this virus won't be the next real pandemic. What I am saying is that at this point in time we should probably go on with our lives and not add to our stresses and focus on the things we can control and we enjoy. Let's react when it's absolutely necessary and not make big-pharmas anymore wealthy for no reason. If we over react to this episode, like with Avian flu, and it turns out to be nothing, like Avian flu, well... Well, we all know the fable of 'The Boy Who Cried Wolf'.
Or we can begin our social distancing now. In other words, we all should find our inner tween and take to Twitter immediately.