Monday, April 27, 2009

No Cause for Alarm

I wish I could completely remember this witticism or even who's famous for it, but it went something like this: when I was a baby I'd lie in my crib looking up at the mobile dangling above and think "that thing's gonna fall."

I admit I can be fearful like that even without the help of the Internet. Isn't the Internet supposed to help us with facts and... um... make us smarter? I'm talking about this swine flu scare.

Here are some facts. The CDC tells me that typically 36,000 people die of flu symptoms in the US every year. The World Health Organization has raised its alert level from three to four. That governor who a week ago wanted Texas to secede is now begging the feds for flu help. Here's a handy Google map showing all confirmed cases of the swine flu. Here's a 1976 swine flu awareness commercial. Here's a brief history of the 1918 flu pandemic which killed between 20 and 40 million people worldwide. Here's a sampling of swine flu messages popping up on that wellspring of misinformation known as Twitter:

Webcomic via xkcd.

Yeah, that would be pretty funny if it wasn't exactly like the real swine flu tweets on Twitter!

So when is the right time to panic? Well, I'd say not yet, and that must mean something coming from somebody who thinks a baby mobile is the sword of Damocles. But, still, be sure to wash your hands.


pinkpackrat said...

love that graphic! and thanks for a cogent take on the swineflu hysteria. I feel sorry for all the Mexicans in my town who are now going to be treated like lepers because of media hype.

Kristen said...

I was really shocked that the scapegoating has already begun. No matter what happens, I hope we can keep our sanity.