The Big, Bad Swine Flu


By Doug Thompson

As of Monday, swine flu had caused 190 deaths worldwide in the previous seven days.

It does not belittle the grief of the bereaved to point out that about twice as many die of traffic deaths in the United States every day.

The hysteria in the reporting on the flu has gotten old.

Everybody should take precautions against the flu — whatever variety. The existing strains of flu kill 250,000 people a year. People should wash their hands — always. People should cover their mouths when they sneeze. People shouldn’t share drinks.

I respect that the data shows that other serious pandemics showed the same early trends as swine flu has. It’s like an A-bomb. Nuclear fission starts out a few nuclei at a time. You stop it or it follows a known pattern. Pandemics are the same way.

I respect that the science shows that we can prevent a lot of deaths by a reacting with screeching paranoia.

Just call me cynical. I’m tired of being told I’m going to die if the government doesn’t save us and we don’t do what the experts say.

I don’t object to the warnings leading the news every night. I have no problem with all the coverage it’s getting. But could we please be a little less hysterical?

This column started after some other screaming segment appeared on the national news. I started writing this out of irritation. Then I realized I couldn’t even remember what the latest news report said. There was some new development. It was major. It was important. It could mean that the disease was going out of control.

I couldn’t tell you what it was to save my life.

So if I die from swine flue, blame information overload. For whatever reason, I’ve tuned the warnings out.

I’m a government reporter. I’ve been told the sky is going to fall more times than I’ve been told “hello.”

To listen to the experts, the stimulus package saved us from economic disaster. That’s bull. It saved state governments from living within their means.

To listen to the experts, we should have invaded Iraq.

According to the experts, tax cuts ensured lasting prosperity.

The difference between all this sky-is-falling bull and swine flu is that there really is some science behind the fear of a pandemic. War and the economy are hardly scientific subjects. With pandemics, at least, you can really do the math.

Still, there was an English politician who said once that all of human history shows there’s no point listening to experts. To doctors, nothing is ever wholesome. To theologians, nothing is ever pure. To soldiers, nothing is ever a sure thing.

So stay alert, government disease control guys, but tone it down a bit.

Sticking with the theme of the helplessness of civilized people; I went to a forum on hunger. Many of the recently unemployed can’t cook.

The lady who runs the food bank around here told the group you can hand some people a bag of beans and they wouldn’t know what to do with it. People bought stuff you could pop in the microwave or ran by the local burger joint back when they had jobs.

You ought to know how to cook even if you’re a millionaire. Beans and cheap soup bones will get you far. Besides, why spend money if you don’t have to?

I have a TV with hundreds of channels on it. After thorough research, I can confidently report that cooking a decent meal is more interesting than anything on TV.

If I cooked my own food more often than I do and dropped subscription TV, I’d save hundreds of dollars a month.

The late comedian, George Burns, had more money than jokes. He ate Campbell’s soup a lot. He didn’t even have to cook and he ate cheaply. Somebody asked him why. He said the chef at Campbell’s make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. He knew the exact figure. Apparently, he was asked about this issue a lot. He could hire a chef to make him fancy meals, Burns said, but no chef he’d hire would be good enough to make the same salary.

George Burns was a wise man.

Categories: Features