Saturday, May 02, 2009

Swine Flu -- A Fine Brew

When it comes to getting a few days off, there's nothing like a little hysteria to do the trick. Swine Flu. Oooh, let's party like it's 1918. Ha. Financial fears, the crumbling housing market, falling stocks, job losses. Terrible news from all over. When people face man-made calamities, they like to say "if you've got your health, you've got everything."

Then comes the Swine Flu. Hysteria emerges, threatening people in ways that have them believing every aspect of life is headed into the toilet. Thoughts about the end of the world as we know it rise up and no one can stop them from affecting life. Even the Conspiracy Theorists have gotten into the act, claiming the Swine Flu is the result of a bio-terrorist attack.

However, it will all be forgotten in about two weeks, when a new crisis has surfaced to replace this one. Maybe Americans will shift their focus back to banks and the possible Armageddon of our financial system. However, most Americans are tired of that fear and would prefer a new one.

Swine flu may be less potent than first feared

May 1, 2009

The swine flu outbreak that has alarmed the world for a week now appears less ominous, with the virus showing little staying power in the hardest-hit cities and scientists suggesting it lacks the genetic fortitude of past killer bugs.

President Barack Obama even voiced hope Friday that it may turn out to be no more harmful than the average seasonal flu.

In New York City, which has the most confirmed swine flu cases in the U.S. with 49, swine flu has not spread far beyond cases linked to one Catholic school. In Mexico, the epicenter of the outbreak, very few relatives of flu victims seem to have caught it.

A flu expert said he sees no reason to believe the virus is particularly lethal. And a federal scientist said the germ's genetic makeup lacks some traits seen in the deadly 1918 flu pandemic strain and the more recent killer bird flu.

"It may turn out that H1N1 runs its course like ordinary flus, in which case we will have prepared and we won't need all these preparations," Obama said, using the flu's scientific name.

New York officials said after a week of monitoring the disease that the city's outbreak gives little sign of spreading beyond a few pockets or getting more dangerous.

All but two of the city's confirmed cases so far involve people associated with the high school where the local outbreak began and where several students had recently returned from Mexico.

Almost everyone who became ill before then are either recovering or already well. The school, which was closed this past week, is scheduled to reopen Monday. No new confirmed cases were identified in the city on Friday, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the outbreak in New York had so far proved to be "a relatively minor annoyance."

So far in the United States, he said, the virus appears to look and behave like the garden-variety flus that strike every winter. "There is no real reason to believe this is a more serious strain," he said.

The president also said the U.S. government is working to produce a vaccine down the road, developing clear guidelines for school closings and trying to ensure businesses cooperate with workers who run out of sick leave.

He pointed out that regular seasonal flus kill about 36,000 people in the United States in an average year and send 200,000 to the hospital.

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