I don’t actually have the answer to this question, sorry. I just want to talk about the media coverage of it, and how it seems to be on every parent’s mind.

Schools are being closed. People are being quarantined and advised not to travel to the Americas because of this. It’s front page news all over the world. The WHO is being very scary.

I am in no way equipped to guess how much of this is helpful and healthy precautions and how much of it is security theater, putting on a big show of disease prevention and wasting resources. Certainly the novelty plays a role. As this post from a friend points out, tens of thousands of Americans die of the plain old flu every year. We don’t get worldwide panic every November. Something special is going on here.

It could be that this new pathogen really has the potential to, as a friend of mine so adorably phrased it, “kill us all”. It could be that it’s a slow news week. Probably a bit of both. I was working in a newsroom when the Bird Flu was scaring everyone. Reporters and editors really did sit around trying to find ways to keep it on the front page, and essentially making up stories. Why? Because people expected us to, and our competitors were doing it. It was the hot topic of the week, and ignoring it would have been bad business.

Very briefly: I am not worried about Swine Flu bringing down the apocalypse, any more than I worry about meteors hitting the earth or nuclear war. Those things might happen. I’ll do what I can to prevent them, which is precious little. Being afraid will not serve anything, and I’m not inclined towards fearing invisible threats.

In all the press and panic about Swine Flu though, I did see one good idea that I think I’ll follow, which was to lay in a two-week emergency store of food, water, cooking gas, first aid supplies/family medicines, and batteries.

I don’t think for a second that my family will be trapped in our home for two weeks while everyone around us dies of a virulent flu, or that having a lot of bottled water in my basement would really help in that scenario. But we’ll probably lose power at some point. Our neighborhood might well be hit with a particularly violent winter storm, or the powerful leftovers of a hurricane. That earthquake Boston is 400 years overdue for could strike.

I expect the Swine Flu to go the way of Bird Flu and EEE and Mad Cow Disease; disappearing from the eye of the public mind almost as quickly as they entered. Hopefully I’ll take one useful thing from this round of media fear-mongering, which is to be a little more prepared for disaster, in whatever form it might take.

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