...my thoughts on the Swine Flu Fear Pandemic.
Tarrant County has taken a very proactive stand against the Swine Flu breakout, some would say too proactive seeing as how there are only 5 confirmed cases and 21 probable cases of the Swine Flu in the county.
Right now all Fort Worth and Cleburne ISD schools are closed for at least a week. One of the larger charity fund raising events of the year has been canceled, and more closures and cancellations are being announced with every news break.
This reaction to the Swine Flu is interesting. From all accounts, the Swine Flu has the same symptoms and treatments as our routine Asian Flu that sweeps through the nation a time or two each year. This "routine" flu outbreak infects anywhere from 5 to 20% of the population and is responsible for an average of 36,000 deaths in America each year.
So we have a flu that acts and reacts pretty much the same as our normal flu outbreaks, and this flu has infected a very small number of people (a whopping 141 confirmed cases in the entire country as of this morning). Why all the hysteria?
Leaving politics and the media's penchant for "creating" crisis aside, I see two reasons for our local reaction to this flu outbreak.
First is the fact that there is no vaccine for this variant of the Swine Flu. A lack of a vaccine means that there are less barriers to the spread of the flu and that there is the possibility that more people will catch it. I could not find any hard facts about just how many adults get flu shots, but it appears that somewhere around a third of us are vaccinated each year. If the vaccine is targeted correctly, that is a significant barrier to the spread of the flu. It is quite possible that without a vaccinated population, this flu could spread and infect many more people than a 'normal' flu outbreak. Since this flu acts and reacts similar to the 'normal' flu outbreaks, more infections should result in more deaths. Slowing down the spread of the flu could save lives.
The second reason for our local reaction to this flu outbreak might well be an exercise to determine just how effective our preparations for an Avian Flu outbreak have been. The "Bird Flu" is still out there, and it is a very real potential viral disaster. Treating the Swine Flu as a serious threat and implementing the programs that have been put in place to combat the Avian Flu will highlight any deficiencies in those programs.
Yes, I think our local officials are over reacting to the Swine Flu. I also believe that this over reaction might be justified and will help the local .govs to better prepare for a more serious outbreak.
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