Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Obligatory Swine Flu Post

Since we're often categorized as a "medblog," it seems natural to comment on the "health crisis du jour." While we would never minimize the danger of any potentially catastrophic health problem, I think that we should step back a moment, catch our collective breath, and think this through.
A few years ago, it was bird flu, and SARS before that. While the damage to those individuals who did contract those diseases was, of course, tragic, neither illness became the epidemic/pandemic that was feared.
[ed: let's also clarify some of the terms that have been bandied about recently: a pandemic is a disease that is "prevalent throughout an entire country, continent, or the whole world; epidemic over a large area." An epidemic is one which affects "many persons at the same time, and spreading from person to person in a locality where the disease is not permanently prevalent." Courtesy Dictionary.com]
It appears that, while serious, the swine flu doesn't pose an immediate, existential danger to citizens of our fair country. It's interesting to note that in Mexico, the apparent epicenter of the outbreak, the fatality rate is alarming; here, not so much. Perhaps that's because the Mexican health care system is run by the government.
In addition to common-sense prevention methods (such as covering one's nose and mouth, washing hands frequently and the like), the CDC recommends staying away from those who may be infected (coughing, sneezing and the like) and staying home if one has symptoms.
To quote Sergeant Esterhaus: "Hey, let's be careful out there."
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