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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Emergency! Emergency!

In the news this morning... Pres. Obama has declared an H1N1 state of emergency.  I actually tried to watch some tv news last night (man, sometimes I wish we could stop our cable...) and they were showing people who'd lined up for hours, even camping overnight, for the flu shot.

I actually know a few people who've had H1N1 (or Swine Flu, as the CBC continues to insist on calling it).  They found it the mildest flu they've ever had, and would take H1N1 over regular flu any day.  One woman, who discovered she's had H1N1 only because she'd gone to the dr. for something else afterwards, was told by her doctor he doesn't even bother testing for it anymore.  For a while, everyone who came in with the flu was being tested, and they all came back positive.  As the dr. put it, H1N1 is this year's flu, and that the majority of people had very mild symptoms, compared to regular flu.  Only one person got pneumonia afterwards, and was told it'll take her up to a year to recover from that.

Not everyone is throwing common sense out the window.  In the Vancouver Sun, there's this...

With few exceptions, most of the 86 deaths in Canada (nine in B.C.) attributed to H1N1 as of Oct. 22 have been linked to underlying medical conditions.
In fact, most documented cases of swine flu have been mild ones, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, which also reminds us that other flu strains account for between 2,000 and 8,000 Canadian deaths each year.
Today's National Post front page headline is, Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Flu?  In Pandemic paranoia: Are fears justified or overblown? they write...

To be sure, the H1N1 virus is cause for concern. It has appeared in 191 countries, struck roughly 400,000 people globally and claimed the lives of at least 5,000 people. However the virus, a novel strain of influenza that can be treated with two widely available drugs and for which there is an effective vaccine, has killed fewer people over the past six months than the seasonal flu kills every six days. Yet fear of the flu has spread ferociously, as if H1N1 anxiety were more contagious than the virus itself.
"It appears that the global health community, including the WHO, is committed to worst-case thinking," said Frank Furedi, professor of Sociology at the University of Kent and author of Politics of Fear, Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone? "Health officials are today framing medical problems like H1N1 as threats to human existence."
For Mr. Ferudi, much of the language surrounding the flu is inflammatory and does little more than instil a paralyzing paranoia among a species already programmed for fight or flight and which increasingly views any uncertainty as a threat. Fear, of course, can be a positive emotion that protects people from taking dangerous risks, and is partly credited for humankind's early abilities to survive. But fear can likewise manifest into debilitating paranoia, and prevent people from engaging healthily in society.

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