Monday, 18 May 2009

A state of panic and humour

With every sniffle, cough and sneeze comes the inevitable jibe about swine flu. A serious matter at heart, but not surprisingly, it has become a target for jokes and unecessary panic.

I have heard more than a few jokes about the current worlwide health situation in recent weeks. Some more funny than others, but fundamentally, I wonder, should we all be more worried? Or are these jibes simply a cover up to the sincere panic felt across the nation?

I wouldn't say I was particularly worried about swine influenza. I have thought about it and I am aware of the symptoms. But my day to day life is not spent in confinement worrying about the possibility of contracting the illness.

It is times like this when people begin to question society, the state of mind of its citizens and whether perspective is something which is taken a bit too lightly. Do people get into a state of panic too easily?

Swine flu has been confirmed in 37 countries accross the world. There have been deaths in four countries; Mexico (where the illness is said to have stemmed from), Canada, Costa Rica and the US. There are currently 101 confirmed cases in the United Kingdom, none of which have resulted in death. The NHS advises people to maintain their personal hygeine by thoroughly washing their hands at various intervals throughout the day. Anti-bacterial hand gel gains extra brownie points. Although there have been many pictures of people wearing face masks, the health service in the UK says that this is not neccesary unless you are treating a patient in a hospital who is showing the symptoms of the flu strain.

The first cases of the disease stemmed from Mexico, which is currently still the worst affected area in the world. As the name suggests, it is usually an illness found in pigs, but a recent development of the virus has become accustomed to human dwelling. However, reports show that the death toll there is "less than feared". Good news as far as good news goes in this case. Although the severity of swine flu hasn't yet been established, health and government officials in Mexico have ordered a five day shut down in an attempt to contain the disease. Countries outside of Mexico have not experienced effects as extreme as those found in Mexico, but the risk is still there and warnings that every precaution should be taken in prevention are imminent.
People should be cautious, but should not let the potential infection of swine flu rule their lives.
The possibility of a pandemic still stands, but a state of national panic is not in order. Although the jokes which circulate rapidly via text and email could seem uneccesary and crude, they could actually do some good in the current situation as a diversion therapy, a temporary cure for the fear of swine flu.

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