Concern, not alarm

photo by scol22My hypochondria is flaring up.

Every morning I turn on New York One, the NYC news channel, just to make sure the world is still there. I get online and check Facebook, my favorite blogs, and the major news headlines. So I heard about the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico early last week, and I felt a little tickle in my throat.

The next day I heard there were a few cases in Texas and California. Slight headache.

And on Friday, I turned on the tv to learn that a bunch of high school students in Queens – some of whom had just been to Mexico – had all gone home with the flu. Like, 75 of them.

I sneezed.

You can’t read this blog, or talk to me for long, without perceiving that I spend a lot of time thinking about the apocalypse. I don’t think I’m obsessed to an unhealthy degree, at least no one’s ever hinted as much to me. I think I’m healthily obsessed. If you think a huge disaster can’t happen where you live, you’re in denial.

As soon as I heard that the swine flu had already arrived in New York City, I went out and bought some more canned food and bottled water. They say you should have 2 weeks’ supply of everything, in case you have to hole up in your apartment until the pandemic is over. That includes medication, batteries, anything you might need that you might not be able to get, if you’re quarantined, taking care of someone who’s sick, or if stores are closed. Here is a good page on individual and family readiness from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Get Pandemic Ready is a good collection of advice, too.

On my way home with my supplies, a woman was walking in front of me, carrying her baby, who faced me over her shoulder. And coughed. Wetly.

I stopped dead in my tracks, until whatever bad guys might’ve been in the air had time to settle and dissipate. Sheesh. I felt achey and feverish for the rest of the day.

I must say I’m impressed with how the city is handling this, making sure we all understand what this is and what we can do. Everyone is firmly on the “concerned, not freaking the hell out” page, taking this seriously but not fanning the flames of hysteria, at least not as far as I’ve seen (I don’t watch FOX). I feel for the people of Mexico, who are feeling the worst of this, and I don’t blame them one bit. The most likely origin of this swine flu is the (American-owned) factory farms that have been built all over Mexico in the last few years, where, with fewer regulations to protect them, pigs are raised in confined and unsanitary circumstances, and the human workers don’t have it much better. David Kirby called for CDC and USDA officials to take a close look in this excellent article. I’ve heard that the factory farm near “Patient Zero,” a five year old who’s fine, has tested negative for this strain, but we’ll see what develops.

We’re as well-prepared as we can be at this point. I don’t believe we’re equipped to handle an outbreak on the level of the 1918 pandemic, but I don’t think you can have this many people in the world and be prepared to handle almost all of them getting sick, and a substantial portion of them dying. Whatever happens, we’ll figure it out. Probably, it’s not that bad, and this whole thing will soon be forgotten, until it’s time to do a “this year in the news” feature.

Meanwhile, please take normal precautions:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you get sick with influenza, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

Don’t I sound calm? I am. Really. I’ve only sneezed once today.

Take care, everyone.

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