H1N1 – The Porky Panic

Posted on Monday, May 4th, 2009 by

2009 H1N1 Flu Outbreak Map using Google Map – Judging by the ecstatic media frenzy surrounding the Swine Flu or H1N1, one might think the end of the world is approaching or that we’re witnessing nothing less of a pandemic of biblical proportions. Furthermore, on April 29 the World Health Organization has raised the Swine Flu alert level to phase 5 (out of 6). Sounds scary, but if we were to look closer on what’s been reported and on the actual facts and numbers of H1N1, it seems like governments and global health organizations are simply adopting the ‘better be safe than sorry’ approach. As with the Avian flu scare we seem to have forgotten about, the media is a major player in propelling public panic, so one should take this whole ordeal with a grain of salt.

What is H1N1 (swine flu)? H1N1 (formerly referred to as “swine flu”) is a new influenza virus in the form of a respiratory disease affecting humans and causing flu-like symptoms that can sometimes result in death. It is believed the virus first originated in N. American pigs (hence “Swine Flu”) but underwent some form of mutation when it began affecting humans. Further study has shown that this new virus is very different from what normally infects North American pigs. You may not know this, but this isn’t the first Swine Flu outbreak; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 1976 a group of soldiers in Fort Dix, NJ (all were previously healthy) got sick with pneumonia and one soldier died as a result. In Addition, in 1988 a pregnant American woman contracted the virus after visiting an animal fair, and later died of pneumonia. The H1N1 was found in her system.

In this year’s outbreak, the first Swine Flu case in humans was reported in April 2009 in Mexico, the virus’ breakout epicenter. Since the report of the first Swine Flu case, numerous geographic locations including USA, Canada, Europe New Zealand, Israel and Hong Kong have reported H1N1 cases. However, these are primarily associated with individuals who recently visited Mexico and the USA (in states near the Mexican border such as Texas and California).

What can you do? Being aware and cautious is the most you can do for yourself and your family. The best resource for keeping up to date is the CDC official site (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The CDC is an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. It promotes public health and safety by providing information to enhance health decisions especially in cases of infectious diseases.

The CDC site offers a comprehensive resource on the Swine Flu. I recommend that you visit their site on a daily basis, and in particular, make use of CDC’s Swine Flu-designated tools: CDC YouTube Channel and Twitter feed for Emergency Information. Want more? Check out the CDC Questions and Answers about H1N1 or simply call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636), or email cdcinfo@cdc.gov. As you’ll find out for yourself, some of the most important preventive actions you can take are the simple, common sense stuff such as washing your hands after you shake someone’s hand and covering your mouth when you cough. Needless to say, if you have any flu-like symptoms, go to see your doctor rather than getting on on a plane or going into a high populated area.

To give you a more comprehensive picture of Swine Flu, I suggest reading this MSNBC article and make your own decisions about it…
For more information, check out the following links:
World Health Organization – The United Nations public health arm. Monitors disease outbreaks, assesses the performance of health systems around the globe, maintains world epidemiological and statistical information, and other activities.
HealthMap – A global map with swine flu alerts
SwineMap.org – 2009 H1N1 Flu Outbreak Map using Google Maps

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