Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu

Last year, it was tomatoes, this year it's the swine flu.

In case you've been living under a rock for the last 72 hours, the swine flu is particularly virulent strain of the influenza virus which looks to have originated in Mexico, and is now spreading across the world. It's prompted states of emergency, a World Health Organization pandemic alert, and canceled high school sporting events in at least two states. Texas is ground zero for the flu's invasion of the US, and being here you'd think I'd be scared out of my wits. Which I'm not.

As with the tomato/salmonella outbreak from last year, let me see if I can add a dose of perspective to the current crisis. In 2007, 37,248 fatalities occurred on America's roadways, and about 1-in-3 of those was alcohol-related. (Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System) That's the equivalent of an average-size jetliner crashing, every single day. And yet, I don't see any media frenzy, mass installation of automobile roll bars, or outlawing of any alcoholic drink. If we do it for the flu, we ought to do the same for something so common and preventable, as car accidents.

Don't get me wrong: We should promote public health and encourage people to take necessary precautions. But let's not warn people not to travel, or scare folks out of their wits. The flu has only killed one person in the US. Any death, especially that of a child, is sad. But let's keep things in perspective.

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