It's hard to know - is it mass hysteria or common sense on behalf of the WHO and the media? Mexico is shut down, and some schools have shut down in the USA and Canada. At the time that I write this, 367 people around the world are confirmed to have the H1N1 virus, Formerly Known as Swine Flu. Does this virus have the same publicist as The Artist, Formerly Known as Prince (now Prince, Formerly Known as the Artist)? Amazing publicity, imagine having the power to shut down a whole city?
The key word here is "flu." I've had the flu before, haven't we all? Not this particular one but other strains. And hundreds of thousands of people around the world die from complications of the flu every year. Generally, those are people with underlying medical problems: the elderly, sick babies, and people who have chronic breathing or lung problems. The truth of the matter is, like any flu, most people who get this H1N1 flu will get a mild case and fully recover.
What's good about all the attention given to this virus? People around the world are being educated on how to prevent transmission of airborne viruses: wash your hands, cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing and stay home when you are sick!
My family has cancelled our trip to Mexico. We were supposed to go next week for my nieces wedding. The flights were cancelled. The wedding was rebooked in Costa Rica. Would we have gone to Mexico anyway? Well, that would depend on the situation a week from now. And who wants to sunbathe with a surgical mask on? That would be some weird tan line. Michael Jackson must love this. Finally he can walk around and feel normal wearing a surgical mask.
Which brings me to the next thing about surgical masks. You know those paperlike ones that everyone is seen wearing in Mexico? Well, they don't really work very well. Many viruses can easily pass through those surgical masks, not to mention the gaping sides. They are the masks that Dr's and nurses wear during surgery to prevent our germs from getting onto the sterile field. But it doesn't stop germs from getting past the mask to us.
There is a special mask called the N95 that is better suited to keeping viruses out. It is the one that has a hard, rounded, shell-like appearance. The N95 must be fitted properly to do its job and still only works 50 - 92%. Hey, you wouldn't trust a condom with those odds would you?
Since we aren't going to Mexico, it's time to refocus on India - where one never has to worry about getting sick, right? Makes me wonder why India hasn't been shut down?
What about malaria? There are 300-500 million cases of malaria reported each year around the world, of which one million people die. What about AIDS? 33.0 million adults and children are invected with HIV/AIDS globally. There are two million deaths per year. Should we shut down Africa? What about the common cold? Should the WHO shut down your home town?