Don’t stop living due to H1N1 paranoia

Last Friday, when I went to meet with a client for work, I was surprised to see her co-worker in the office who was supposed to leave for a vacation in Costa Rica that day.

When I asked him why, his response was “Well, I don’t want to risk getting swine flu, and it’s in Central America. Plus, we fly right over Mexico, and that makes me nervous.”

After forcing myself to resist saying something along the lines of “Yes, that is scary, since Mexicans are known for their super strong coughs that send germs straight up in the atmosphere, where they then enter commercial planes,” I told him what a shame it was to have canceled his vacation.

It is a shame, especially when you consider that there have been upwards of several thousand H1N1 flu cases confirmed in the US and less than 10 in Costa Rica as of May 20, according to the Associated Press.

Perhaps he would be better off fleeing the US to Costa Rica where swine flu numbers are low. People have become so scared by the possible outbreak of a pandemic that they are not acting rationally.

Now I am not going to give you a list of facts and figures about why you should not panic over the swine flu and that everything is going to be OK, because I sure that, like me, you have been hearing about swine flu everywhere.

Not only are the news networks spewing new H1N1 figures daily, swine flu is slowly creeping into our daily lives here at Tech.

If you ride MARTA, while you wait for your train, you are assured over loudspeaker that MARTA officials are doing their best to keep passengers safe from swine flu, along with tips on how to stay healthy and prevent disease spread on the train.

While I appreciate the advice to cover your cough on MARTA, I’m pretty sure that it is never acceptable to cough on strangers while riding the train. If public disease prevention warnings are not subtle enough for you, @swineflucast is now on twitter. All swineflucast does is constantly repost any news regarding the swine flu.

Of course just its existence in the world isn’t obvious enough. Swineflucast sought me out on Twitter, followed me and sent me a direct message warning me to keep up with the news in order to know what is going on with the spread of H1N1 throughout the world.

Thanks, swineflucast. If I wasn’t already paranoid enough swine flu was coming to get me, now it actually follows me on Twitter.

Perhaps the most obvious interruption of Tech life by the swine flu is the cancellation of the Mexico LBAT. While I understand the concern of heeding the CDC travel warning to keep Tech students safe, now that the warning has been lifted, it seems like a hasty decision.

Ask any of the people who were supposed to spend their summer in Mexico, but now are stuck doing the program at tech what they think of the swine flu and you are in for a verbal lashing.

At least Tech is letting the students get the credits here and giving a partial refund, but much of the money they spent is gone.

My friend who was supposed to go on the LBAT still winces if you ask her if she wants to get Mexican food for dinner.

Just the simple statement, “I thought you were going to Mexico this summer,” is a warrant for a thirty minute rant.

And with good reason, too.

The spread of a disease that has fewer deaths so far than its non-fear-inspiring cousin, the regular flu, has in a year is consuming our lives and our thoughts in ways that is reminiscent of the bird flu outbreak in Asia.

Yes, bird flu was unpleasant, but it was not nearly as deadly as we thought it would be.

We quickly become more and more scared of what could be without considering the reality of what is. Swine flu paranoia shouldn’t take over lives.

Swine flu frenzy is not going to go away anytime in the immediate future, and I suppose I too am now guilty of spreading it, but I hope that you can ignore it and move on with your daily lives.

My advice: don’t become a part of it like my client. Please do continue to cover your coughs and wash you hands like hygienic people should.

Don’t spend inordinate amounts of time with sick people, and do be aware of the news. Don’t worry about the swine flu too much though, and definitely don’t cancel a vacation to a beach resort in Costa Rica to avoid flying over Mexico.