Or perhaps, I should say that I hate the media's reaction to the flu. The circus surrounding the swine flu (or N1H1 if you want to sound all smart and stuff, or Mexican flu if you want to sound like you're an Israeli health minister) is idiotic.
Here's the thing, if you work in the CDC or some sort of health agency, I expect you to take this seriously and maybe even get a little worried. It'll get you off your ass and stop you from eating doughnuts in the staff break room long enough to make sure something like this doesn't turn into a pandemic. After all, flu is the perfect vehicle for a true pandemic. It's highly contagious, airborne, and incubates long enough to allow the infection to spread far and wide, unlike Ebola, which kills you so fast it can't even hitch a ride to the next town. For the rest of us, however, it's really stupid to care about this right now. First, there isn't really anything you can do that you shouldn't already be doing to prevent the disease from spreading. You should already be washing your hands, sneezing into your arm, and staying out from work or school when you are actually sick. Second, this thing isn't even a big deal right now. Fewer than 4,000 people worldwide have been suspected of having this version of the flu. That's right, out of the billions of people in the world, the number of people who've had this flu would be about the equivalent of the population of one really large suburban high school. As for deaths, there are only nine confirmed and 177 suspected worldwide.
Remember SARS? Yeah, that turned out to not be a very big deal. It only killed 774 people before it petered out. The bird flu? It can't even jump from human to human yet and most of the people who caught it actually lived in the same building as the birds that gave it to them. West Nile Virus? Less than a four percent fatality rate in serious infections.
Sure, I'm taking about hundreds of deaths as if they were nothing, and that does seem rather callous of me, but these are diseases that really are only moderately worse than an average strain of the regular influenza virus and often seem to fade away after the initial outbreak. To put it in perspective, there has been an average of about 713 deaths a year among American soldiers in Iraq, and that's just the Americans. It doesn't count the other allies or the much higher number of Iraqis killed since March 2003. Remember, that's just one small war in one of the most peaceful eras in the history of the human species and we're worried about the flu. If you're a healthy person who's not elderly or younger than a preschooler and you're not too proud to go to a doctor when you're sick, none of these flu and flu-like diseases are going to kill you. You'll feel like crap for a week and then you can brag at parties that you lived through the swine flu/bird flu/SARS/West Nile/disease du jour. It's an instant ice breaker, as long as you don't currently have the sniffles.
Until then, please beg the media to stop talking about this. We really need to save our overreactions for the next coming of the bubonic plague, shark attacks, and little white girls who've been kidnapped. Hell, maybe the television news stations could even find some room to address something of actual importance.