Discourse / Editorials / September 24, 2009

Thoughts from the Embers: Precaution or hysteria?

This year, swine flu is all the rage. There are things we can do that will keep us safe from contracting the dastardly virus which could, in the right conditions, become fatal. We all must wash our hands more, sanitize everything we touch and stay away from anyone who has a temperature or coughs around us. These are also good tips for staying healthy, in general. So what is it that is different, special, that we should be altering our behavior to keep this disease at bay until the vaccination arrives?

We’ve been told, since the outbreak earlier in the year, that this swine flu is going to be a big problem, a pandemic. It is a flu (we’ve all had the flu) that you can get, only it is morphed into something that is much wors and could kill you. The only prevention, beyond the vaccination that hasn’t been distributed yet, is to maintain healthy habits that we all should be cultivating anyway. Otherwise, we should just be afraid of what could happen.

They’re telling us that 20 to 40 percent of the population could contract some form of the swine flu this holiday season. Forty percent of the people, that means nearly half of us should be sick by the time this year’s over with. That’s a lot of people. How many of us know a single person who has had the swine flu? My guess is that if you do, they’re on their way to recovery. Statistically, only a small percentage of the people who have contracted the swine flu have died from it, at least in the United States. And this isn’t even the first time this has happened. There were swine flu outbreaks in 1918 and 1976, according to the Center for Disease Control.

This virus is highly contagious, especially on a college campus. So why are we all here, putting ourselves in a higher risk environment, if this deadly virus is out to get us? Surely we are not gambling our lives and well-being for a superior education. Either one of two things is happening here.

Perhaps “they” (the experts, government officials, health officials, etc.) are leading us to believe that we should be more terrified of this virus than is actually necessary in order to control our behavior in some way. Or, all this warning and agitation is warranted and we’ve become somehow immune to fear. Both possibilities are startling.

If it is that swine flu has been blown out of proportion, then what is stood to be gained by our hysteria? It could be that we are being led to believe the nasty virus will probably plague us until the vaccination is released in October, backed by the government who will surely save the day. We can invest in a government that acts quickly and saves us from certain doom. Is a conspiracy plausible? Probably not.

So, then if all this is true, we college students are making a crazy wager. But why? Well, we are interested and engaged folk who will need a good job within this troubled economy after we graduate and a Knox degree could help with that. Also, we’ve been taught to be afraid of things for nearly our entire lives (think drugs, AIDS, sex, strangers, mailbox bombs, anthrax, terrorists, anything that goes bump in the night) and we’ve learned to live despite all that, so we’re not going to let a little thing like a deadly flu virus get in the way of our hard-earned education. This still seems silly, but understandable considering the circumstances.

So, as the flu season hits, we might get the chills. We’ll run a temperature and have stuffy noses and some of us might even find ourselves vomiting, as happens from time to time. We’ll be extra careful and contact the clinic under all these circumstances and hope that what we’ve got isn’t the deadly one. We’ll get vaccinated as soon as we can. The swine flu will dissipate into the annals of history again.

And then what?

TKS Staff

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