Swine Flu and Mass Hysteria

Humanity is consumed by the Swine Flu saga. Since it first appeared in Mexico, the virus has been popping up across the planet, not terribly surprising in this era of global transportation. To date, the infection has not proved to be especially virulent, though, like many infections, it may cause fatalities in the very young, the elderly and in those with compromised immune systems; fortunately, this virus appears to be sensitive to our current influenza medications.

Nevertheless, its spread is receiving constant attention from vigilant news agencies, which provide hourly updates of new cases (many of which are merely the confirmation of previously suspected infection). Egypt, oblivious to scientific knowledge about the virus and its means of transmission, is slaughtering its entire swine herd and Vice President Biden, ever loose-lipped, has indirectly advised all of us to avoid mass transit and public gatherings. Photos of masked citizens, like ads for a doomsday movie, flash across our television and computer screens, giving the impression that the human population is in imminent peril.

While, as with all contagious diseases, efforts to prevent the transmission of Swine Flu are appropriate, the implication that a lethal cloud is circling the globe leads to unnecessary fear and inappropriate behaviour. Humans are prone to mass hysteria and, rather than providing a balanced perspective, the media tends to fan the flames.