Not Freaking Out About the Swine Flu
With my new shorter-and-more-frequent blogwriting strategy, I had planned to post a few more times on Friday and maybe even over the weekend, especially since I wanted to catch up on posts around the asthma blogger neighborhood. I’ll be honest with you, though:
I got distracted by the swine flu.
To be even further honest, I’ve been quietly freaking out about the swine flu epidemic/possible pandemic on and off all weekend. Basically, I’ve been veering wildly from “Okay, well I’ll monitor this situation carefully, but there’s no need to panic” to OMG SWINE FLU. WE’RE ALL GOING DOWN.
But only in my head.
Rather than spread my own personal brand of crazy around the Internet by detailing on Asthma Mom my desire/half-formed intention to stash AG and the Steadfast Sidekick in a bubble somewhere for the next few months, reason prevailed and I went hiking instead. I even let AG go to a birthday party at one of those huge bowling alley/indoor family entertainment centers/petri dishes on Saturday night. However, I will admit to ignoring the radio because of the Don’t think about the germs. Don’t think about the germs. Don’t think about the germs mantra running through my head as I drove away from the party, leaving my asthmatic daughter there.
I’m not panicky anymore and am fairly certain I can maintain this attitude, especially since the possibility of a pandemic does not mean it’s an inevitability. Plus, 2009 is a long way from 1918, and while the possibility of a flu pandemic scares me, I know we have a couple of advantages not available during the deadly Spanish flu pandemic back then. For one, lab testing is better now, and researchers have been studying the 1918 flu and monitoring for the next pandemic for some time. Should this flu outbreak turn global, I have some hope that the early warnings we’re getting now, better knowledge about how flu spreads, and subsequent government and community efforts to slow that spread will help.
Medical knowledge has come a long way since 1918, too. The flu virus mutates when it’s spread from human to human, making it notoriously difficult to treat, but Tamiflu is so far effective against this strain.
Finally, communication is basically instantaneous now. Coupling information sources like 24-hour news channels, online news feeds, and Twitter with intense scrutiny of the outbreak means we’re getting the warnings and the new developments as fast as they come out. That’s both a blessing – knowledge is power, after all – and, for worriers like me, a curse.
To that end, let me throw some sane, non-panicky, non-sensationalized links at you:
1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
2. The World Health Organization
3. The Google map of suspected and confirmed swine flu cases.
4. Twitter users SwineFluNews and Hyperlocavore. Follow that last one especially if you like a little politics and slow food news with your swine flu tweeting (I do).
5. Finally, I like this post from Effect Measure. It’s a write-up of the explanations, implications, and expectations (or lack of) for this outbreak.
And let me tell you what I’m doing to get ready. Because refusing to panic about a possible pandemic doesn’t mean I should refuse to prepare for that possibility, especially with an asthmatic child. In addition, the U.S. government recommends disaster planning for all Americans at all times, regardless of health/region/demographic. Here’s what I’m doing:
1. Making sure AG’s inhalers stay more than half-full.
2. Also ensuring I’m stocked up on OTC meds (like motrin) that will help ease mild flu symptoms. (If anything more serious affects this household, we’d head straight to the doctor, of course.)
3. Reminding the girls to wash their hands constantly and avoid any sick kids at school.
4. Stocking two weeks of non-perishable food and water supplies – not just because I could get sick, but also in the event that I’m well but my region is virulent and I’m trying to avoid the contagion of a trip to the store.
Basically, I’m making the normal flu season preparations I should stay on top of all the time anyway, but don’t, when life gets busy. Otherwise, I’m watching and reading and going on with my day as planned. Project deadlines loom and later today, the Steadfast Sidekick has a science fair project she needs to finish up with my help.
As other bloggers and Twitterers have noted – if we’re lucky, this outbreak is a false pandemic alarm and will serve as a learning tool for future health emergencies.**
What’s going on in your world?
**In using the word “lucky,” I don’t mean to diminish the flu deaths in Mexico. Those are tragic, no matter what happens globally, and the victims’ families have my sympathies.