This past week, I’ve been struggling to come up with something interesting to say about swine flu. Sam wrote yesterday about The Daily Mail’s approach to the risk posed by the virus, and whilst I agree with him that we shouldn’t dismiss swine flu as a media scare story, I think the issue is a bit more complex.
With the threat of pandemic looming, the important responses come from scientists and politicians. The scientists must act fast to track the virus as it spreads, and work to create a vaccine. The politicians must make decisions regarding border controls and the distribution of healthcare. So far, this seems to be happening.
What about the media and the public? The media have a responsibility to report accurately and to avoid sensationalism. For the most part this has been the case, despite as Sam says, the prominence given to possible death tolls.
That leaves the public. What can you or I do to avoid catching and spreading swine flu? Staying indoors and away from anyone else would work, but the country would grind to a halt. Personal hygiene is important, but if people are too lazy to regularly wash their hands then leaflets telling them to will probably have little effect. And face masks are pointless.
All this means that I’m happy to basically ignore the risk of swine flu. I have little-to-no power to avoid an infection, so fretting about it makes as much sense as worrying about being knocked down by car and killed. The World Health Organisation report 1.2 million deaths every year due to road traffic accidents, but we don’t spend our lives thinking about it.
Swine flu is a problem, and even if the latest news suggests that we’re not headed for pandemic, it is still important that scientists and politicians work to contain it. It’s just not something that you or I should be scared of. And don’t even get me stared on some of the crazy theories out there.