Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Boogie Woogie Flu

Mask? Check… Purell? Check… Panic? Check… Okay – you can leave the house now. But, no shaking hands, no kissing, no hugging, no sneezing, and whatever you do – try to refrain from licking any pigs. (Didn’t see that on CNN, I’m just assuming.)

Yes, my friends, it’s upon us – the 10th plague. At least that’s what the cable news folks want us to think. The Swine Flu is back! It’s been a while… I think last time through, it toured with Boston, and Blue Oyster Cult. But this is a different strain – harder to contain, scarier, and infecting more people… Like Amy Winehouse after a bender. This new strain is a viral cocktail comprised of not only swine flu, but human, and bird flu’s as well. What the hell is going on in Mexico anyway? Should someone tell our neighbors to the South that the ‘Speak n Spell’ where you point the arrow to the farm animal and pull the string, is not a talking ‘spin the bottle’ game? Actually, it seems that the most likely origin is one of the biggest factory farms in Mexico. Sure, factory farms heavily contribute to high methane emissions, land degradation, nitrogen pollution of land and water, and now - new diseases… But Oh my God! The meat just falls off the bone!!!

Whatever the cause, can we just calm down a little? What is it about peril, and impending doom that we Americans find so alluring? Simply mention things like ‘new strain’, or ‘pandemic’, or ‘virulent’, and suddenly we all turn into Glum from the Gulliver’s Travels cartoons – you remember that depressed, monotonic, “we’re doooomed… We’re all gonna die”. And the media loves it. The apparent Apocalypse is great for ratings. Of course, they don’t just report the news, which would be that there are only 50 cases in the U.S. – hardly reason to panic. (that’s as I’m writing this – if, when you read it, the world outside looks like NYC at the beginning of ‘I am Legend’, maybe I was wrong). But they go on and on with ‘worst case’ scenarios;

“If the disease were to morph further, causing people to, say, spontaneously expand to 4 times their normal size, those wearing unnatural fabrics, like polyester, could suffocate in their own clothing… And if this were to take place as the sun exploded, there would be little hope for the cotton wearers as well, Tom…”

And why is the media staying away from what’s really going on? It’s really starting to smell of conspiracy… Think about it – Chicken Pox, Swine Flu, Mad Cow Disease, Eastern Equine Encephalitis…. I can’t be the only one to whom it’s painfully obvious that Old MacDonald is the Angel of Death!!!

And how much of the evolution of these diseases is our fault? Antibiotics are over-prescribed by doctors, and misused by us. We’ll sometimes take them to avoid getting sick. Which not only doesn’t work, but over time has helped to breed more resilient bacteria. That’s why we never see Penicillin prescribed anymore. It was the miracle cure for a time, was prescribed for everything, (I think at one time it came in a Popeye Pez dispenser), and now most bacteria is immune to it. There is also the argument that antibacterial soaps may be contributing to different types of bacteria becoming more resilient. We used to wipe the counter with a sponge, now we have the entire CDC in a spray bottle. ‘Out damn spot… Out I say!’ (I know – King Duncan wasn’t bacteria… But I heard he was a fungi).

Look, when it comes right down to it, Swine Flu 09 is an aggressive form of influenza. We’ve all had the flu. It’s not fun… It’s not Leprosy either. Unfortunately, like other strains of the flu, this will be dangerous for the very young, and very old. All we can really do is what we would normally do to avoid catching a cold. Keep your hands washed, try not to get sneezed on, and I already mentioned the ‘licking the pig’ thing. Also, keep in mind – during flu season in the U.S., an average of 40 million people get the flu, resulting in about 35,000 deaths. – That’s every year - But they don’t keep a daily tally for this on cable news. So as we see Swine Flu cases begin to rise… and we will - every day… maybe we can try to keep some perspective, and try not to panic. Oh - If anyone needs me, I’ll be in my custom built, ISO 14644-1 certified, hermetically sealed ‘clean’ bunker, complete with redundant HEPA and ULPA air filtration, and reverse osmosis water purification. By the way, I dictated this blog… keyboards are the petri dishes of the office world.

Good luck everyone…

“A-th-th, a-th-th, a-th-th – That’s all folks!”

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