Saturday, August 08, 2009

Hamdemic

The lurking prospect of a Swine Flu pandemic has been keeping newspapers and analysts busy for much of this year. Since the virus first touched down in the UK - in all its coughing; spluttering; cataclysmic glory - the press have been reporting it in varying tones; ranging from the doom bringing claim that “Swine flu posed a greater threat than terrorism” according to Home Secretary Alan Johnson, to the faintly ridiculous Sun Headline “Swine Flu could be good for you.” Indeed, it has meant that the usual summer lull for the news media has been less quiet than usual, and to be fair they have had their pick of the big stories what with Michael Jackson dying, the ongoing recession and such, to keep people reading the news.

Still, all this talk about the government implementing far-reaching strategies to contain the virus, such as face-masks and sending out advice leaflets to every home in the country, only makes us lose touch with the reality of the situation – namely that we’re just talking about flu here. Yes, it’s true that with historical context in mind, the previous flu pandemics were disastrous, resulting in the deaths of millions worldwide. However, looking at the context a second time one can see that as medical science; understandings of hygiene and living conditions improved fewer deaths occurred each time a pandemic flared up. At this point in time there is no reason to fear the dreaded bug, unless of course you are old, have chronic health problems and are living in the third world. For most of us it’s going to require a couple of days in bed with, some tissues and a lot of hot tea, but we shall probably still live to tell the tale, which is surprising when some of the more ‘sensible’ newspapers have drawn comparisons between this pandemic, and the gritty 1970s post apocalyptic series Survivors. What next? Are they going to start claiming that Swine flu is going to be similar to 28 Days later, zombified infected and all?

In fact to add a further layer of context to this, I think I may have this week succumbed to swine flu, although I have no real proof for this as it was never diagnosed by a doctor. All I can say is that if it was swine flu, then all we have to worry about is feeling slightly rotten for two days, sleeping a lot and generally badgering family members to fetch me hot drinks. I haven’t emerged from the experience, with a snout - or more crucially dead – I wasn’t speaking in tongues during the illness, I didn’t go gangrenous or any of that stuff. It was nothing like being a patient in an episode of House; having all sorts of weird and wacky symptoms, which the swine flu hype had prepared me for.

Inevitably it’s the press’s job to report on important matters such as this, although sometimes people can suggest the stupidest things sometimes when they let their minds run away with them, and also the public’s ability to get caught up in scare stories. Then again it sells news, as much as I hate the inevitability of sensationalism selling like this. Also what happened to Bird Flu? I thought that was going to kills us all anyway, and then the bloody pigs beat the feathered ones to it?

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