The Swine Flu Scare: Still Stewing or Simmering Down?

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: May 26, 2010

Written by Menopause Minute® Editors

In the midst of the panic over a potential pandemic, I travelled down to Mexico. Yes, in the middle of it all, I vacationed to the country where it is thought the source of swine flu originated. I thought long and hard about not going. I weighed the pros and cons as I watched the spring snow fall outside of my living room window.  In the end, the allure of the sand between my toes overwhelmingly prevailed. This caused some concern among my worried friends and family members, especially because the shocking news about the virulent virus was everywhere.

According to the New York Times, the Wikipedia page “Swine Influenza” had 1.3 million page views on April 29th and 30th. The same week, the term “swine flu” was the most searched term on Yahoo and Google.  Nielson Online says “swine flu” was the most blogged topic of the entire month of April. Personally, I’ve never used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website in my entire life as much as I did that week.

As I switched on CNN from my hotel room in Mexico, I quickly realized our nation was in a state of panic.  Following the advice of local public health authorities, more than 100 schools across the US closed due to swine flu.  Reading the newspapers that week, you’d think the sky was falling!

According to CDC data, as of today, there are 3,009 confirmed cases in 45 states. Illinois is the most infected state with 554 confirmed cases to date. Wisconsin, Texas and California follow with 437, 206 and 193 confirmed cases, respectively. The World Health Organization (WHO) is reporting 30 countries with a total of 5251 cases of H1N1, although they are currently NOT recommending travel restrictions related to the infection.

This week, we’re back to headlines about Middle East relations and our nation’s economic crisis. The hype has died down, but is H1N1 still stewing? Dr. Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the WHO said on May 8th, “The world is better prepared for an influenza pandemic than at any time in history.”

“Years of alert and expectation mean that most counties now have preparedness plans. Vaccine manufacturing capacity has increased sharply. Large stocks of antiviral drugs have been produced and procured. Right now, treatment courses from the WHO stockpile are being shipped to more than 70 countries in the developing world,” says Chan.

Sounds like we’re well prepared on an international level, but one thing I learned from my recent vacation is not to forget how important the simple steps are in avoiding getting sick. There is a point where common sense has to come in play. Remember what your mom used to tell you:

  • Wash your hands
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth until your hands have been cleaned
  • If you don’t feel well, stay home from work or school
  • If you are ill, delay your travel plans and seek medical care
  • Limit your potential exposure by avoiding large crowds
  • Know the symptoms (may include headache, chills, fatigue and body aches)

I am convinced that by following these simple steps, I think I dodged the virus. I carried Purell everywhere; I should have tied a string to the bottle to wear around my neck!  I didn’t find it necessary to wear a mask, but limiting my time around the large crowds was crucial. Avoiding large gatherings and groups of people was easier than I thought it would be; I had an excuse to sit on the beach away from people all day!  Ahh, how nice that sand and sun felt!!

Ever wonder what happens when you travel back to the US with fears of a pandemic?  Mexico had an exit health screening prior to boarding my flight.  A short doctor’s examination was required for all passengers, including a symptom screening and temperature reading.  Re-entering the United States, I was given a pamphlet on the virus with instructions about what to do if I experienced any symptoms.

After my trip, I closely monitored my health for a week as my suntan slowly faded.  No symptoms. Am I still concerned about the virus?  Of course, but I am not obsessing over it.  I feel like I pressed my luck a bit by traveling, but also I feel as if I’ve survived the swine flu scare. At least I don’t have to chant the following rhyme, in 1918 accompanying the scare of Spanish Flu (“La Grippe”):

I had a little bird,
Its name was Enza.
I opened the window,
And in-flu-enza.

To discuss this article with others, go to our bulletin board.

For updates about swine flu, go to:
CDC ‘s H1N1 Flu Page
WHO’s Influenza A(H1N1) Page