So Swine Flu has been in the news a bit lately, have you noticed?
There are some ominous signs out there that this new strain of H1N1 virus may become responsible for a horrible unstoppable global pandemic--the stuff of history books and horror movies.
Or... it might not.
None of the experts, as of this writing, claim to know what the deal is yet. It's too early, and flu viruses are unpredictable. A helpful quote to keep in mind: "If you've seen one flu pandemic, you've seen one flu pandemic."
So it's natural to wonder: is all this hoopla in the media really justified? Should we all be worried about catching and/or dying from Swine Flu?
The short answer: Yep, it's definitely time to panic!
Why now, when there's still so much we don't know? Well, here are Five Good Reasons to start seriously Freaking Out about Swine Flu.
1. Flu Pandemic News: It's A Great Break From Lolcats.
If you're online and trying to avoid doing actual constructive work, there are only so many times a day you can visit your favorite blogs and sites without starting to get a little bored. But now with the swine flu outbreak, you just have to work up enough anxiety so that you Need to Know Every Breaking Development. Voila! You have something new and scary and morbidly fascinating to click on every few minutes.
Because at least for the moment, the disease is spreading, so you can fuel your sense of fear and dread and horrified curiosity every time new cases are discovered. You can find maps, read first-hand accounts, and analyze the political and economic implications of the outbreak. You can choose from a large variety of experts either making dire predictions or offering calm reassurance, whichever spin you prefer.
(Note: One good source for info is Effect Measure; there's always the Center for Disease Control; and HealthBolt also has a round-up of good swine flu links. But it is not exactly hard to find Swine Flu news. Just go to any major news site and click, click, click to your heart's content.)
Those of you who can't work up enough worry to care? Sorry, time to go back to your cute kitteh pictures.
there will always be Lolcats
2. Washing Your Hands Is A Good Idea Anyway!
The more worried you are about catching something potentially deadly, the more likely you are to pay better attention to those Health Experts recommendations about frequent hand washing. As well as those lectures about not touching your face or rubbing your eyes or brushing itchy strands of hair off your forehead unless you've just washed your hands. So even if it turns out there's no epidemic after all, a nice sense of panic will make you much less likely to catch some other unpleasant but less notorious bug than could still make you really miserable.
3. Panic is A Bonding Experience
Most things people get really worked up about are either too personal to share with casual coworkers (the painful details of your divorce, for example), or they're controversial and might cause disagreement (your feelings about corporate bailouts or legalizing drugs or universal health care or whatever).
However, very few people are in favor of massive illness and death. You can pretty much assume that it's safe to share your worries if you have them and no one's going to get offended. And if things do get worse? Oddly enough, people who are scared for their lives often pull together and act much more reasonably and generously than they do in ordinary times!
So keep this simple trick in mind if any of the people you have to deal with on a daily basis are irritating asshats: just whip up a little frenzied fear that a scary awful bug is going to sweep through your office and strike random victims... it could make even the most obnoxious coworker seem suddenly way less annoying!
4. Panicked Overreaction Makes A Great Cocktail Party Story
Once the danger is over, you can tell funny stories about the case loads of face masks and hand sanitizer you stashed in your basement during the Great Swine Flu Scare of 2009. Anxious types who have, in the past, done things like stockpiled duct tape and garbage bags and iodine pills in the aftermath of 9-11, or who hoarded canned goods and cash for when all the world's computers were going to crash in the beginning of the new millennium... well, these folks always tell the best humorous anecdotes at parties. The cheerfully neurotic raconteurs are always more fun to listen to than the smug "I knew from the beginning there was nothing to worry about" types.
5. Er, We Could Actually End Up Having a Swine Flu Pandemic
In which case you will have gotten your panicking done way ahead of schedule, and will be all exhausted and unsurprised and relatively calm while those who didn't think it was going to be a big deal will be freshly reeling.
But What If Panic Just Isn't Your Thing?
I suppose you could just console yourself with the fact that (1) it's probably still really unlikely that anything bad will happen to you personally; and (2) other than take sensible precautions, there's not a lot you can do to stop the spread of swine flu, properly panicked or not. So if you'd rather leave the freaking out to people who actually enjoy it, I suppose being all calm and collected is probably OK too... Ya Big 'Ol Party Poopers.
What about you folks, worried about swine flu yet?