2009-09-03 / Editorial Page

Dear Hearts and Gentle People

I hate it when the media tries to scare the daylights out of me, which, by the way, is almost every day. It isn't enough I have to worry about wars and rumors of wars, wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, and airplane crashes, now it's the swine flu.

Now mind you, I get a flu shot every year, without fail, and have been thinking (obviously in vain) that I was pretty much covered on that front. But, no, now it's a strain of flu for which a vaccine has not even been made! And it's popping up everywhere, maybe even near where I live.

Swine flu. What is it, where did it come from, and how does one get it?

Well, first let me clear up a few things for you. Flu is not the past tense of fly. Pigs can't get swine flu. They can get regular flu but pigs can't fly. Birds do fly and they can carry the flu. Fleas don't fly or carry the flu, but flies carry diseases that often feel like the flu. Are you with me now?

Okay. Flu is short for influenza. It's a German word for "I feel sick as a dog" although it is not carried by dogs. It is contagious but it is usually contracted anywhere you happen to be standing at any given time.

There are many kinds of flu: bird flu, horse flu, Spanish flu, Hong Kong flu, Montezuma's Revenge, and of course, swine flu, among others.

The swine flu is called that because it is a virus that normally infects pigs. It originated in Mexico.

Flu symptoms may include nausea, headaches, body aches, and fatigue. The same symptoms, incidentally, one might get while sitting in on a Lincoln County Commissioners meeting.

Oddly enough, swine flu has been around a while and spread like crazy in 1976. I even got the shot then and was feeling pretty smug the other day when I saw on the news that it had surfaced once more. Surely I was still covered, I thought.


Seems this new strain is in a category by itself and requires a shot that, you guessed it, is in short supply and given to people like me only when every other person and animal in the county has been served.

An epidemic, by the way, is when a new disease inflicts a large group of people. A pandemic is what is formed when the news media scares the daylights out of us and re-names the disease things like H1N1 and tells us the vaccine is, as I said, "in short supply."

An outbreak is, of course, acne.

Contrary to what you may have heard, you cannot contract swine flu by kissing a pig…. a real pig, that is. Unless, of course, the pig has the flu, and at this time there is no evidence that swine in the United States are infected with the H1N1 virus.

You cannot catch the swine flu by eating pork, any more than you can catch bird flu by eating chicken. I'd lay off the pigskins, though. They stink.

So, dear hearts, let's try to stay calm about this thing. Use common sense, wash your hands a hundred and fifty times a day, drink lots of juice, eat your vegetables, cover your mouth when you sneeze, keep your children inside, lock the doors, and don't come out until Christmas.

And if you receive an email from the Department of Health telling you not to eat canned pork because of swine flu…

Ignore it, it's just Spam. :o)

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