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Swine flu – um, I guess I should be worried

Submitted by on Tuesday, 28 April 2009 No Comment

If the reporter had had a camera and not just a micrcophone, he might have been taking his life into his hands by cornering a mom traveling alone with two rambunctious guys.

As it were, we’d arrived at the airport early enough to easily take care of the rental car,  tickets and checked baggage o I didn’t make throw him my “must edit out heinous face” expression when he strolled up, stuck the microphone in my face and started asking about swine flu.

“Aren’t you concerned about traveling with all the reports about it?” he asked.

All the reports about it?

Well, I’d received an email alert the previous week from the county health department about precautions to take during the “outbreak.” And my dad had joked about swine flu as he ate a pork chop for dinner a few nights after that.

What I didn’t know is that Sunday, as I tried to wrestle the guys into bed so I could get a few hours’ sleep before we had to leave for the airport at 2 a.m. Monday, was that the Centers for Disease Control had declared a “health emergency” due to the growing number of cases of swine flu.

Hmm … bad week for Big Guy to suddenly decide he loves bacon, isn’t it? Not that  you can get swine flu from eating pork.

But because the CDC announcement came on Sunday – usually a slow news day when most media outlets are understaffed – it became a huge story Monday. Which is why a radio reporter was glomming onto a harried woman with no make up and in a bad mood because she’d been mistaken for her kids’ grandmother the previous day.

“Concerned about swine flu?” I asked. “Well, I suppose I should be, but after West Nile and SARS and everything else that wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be, I have too many other things on my mind. We have to get home. What other option is there?”

Besides, as I found out later, even the World Health Organization doesn’t consider travel bans a viable solution to stop the spread.

So I forgot about the whole thing until later that afternoon, as we sat in McDonald’s even though I’d told the guys “we’re taking a fast-food break after we get home.” The vow was temporarily forgotten as I battled jet lag and a need to get Big Guy to karate class.

A robo call from our school district rang in. Officials wanted to explain why school would go on as normal and what precautions parents should take to avoid the latest apocolypic plague.

Their advice was the same other county districts have offered: Wash you hands, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and stay home if you’re sick. Stunning revelations, eh?

Yes, swine flu can take a heavier toll than normal flu because this year’s flu vaccine doesn’t offer full protection from this particular strain. There hasn’t been a human outbreak in decades and immunity doesn’t last long.

Yet the early panic is similar to the SARS outbreak earlier this decade, which led our school district to cancel field trips because so many parents were refusing to let their children go.

“Aren’t you scared of swine flu?” the reporter asked.

“I have a 5- and a 3-year-old,” I said, gesturing to where the guys were threatening to grab a moving escalator despite Boots’ recent misadventures with his hand and a moving treadmill. “Something with that small a chance of happening doesn’t scare me much.”

Clearly it wasn’t the answer he was looking for. Maybe he expected me to pull out a rack of ribs and chomp on it, like then-California Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman did with a bowl of strawberries when that product was accused of causing hepatitis back in the 1990s.

He gave up, though, and I went back to my run-of-the-mill worries. Shuttling the guys through plane changes without too many melt downs. Drying tears from little boys who are missing Dad. Keeping Boots from indulging in his latest favorite pastime of trying to break free and run around in busy parking lots.

Worries about swine flu will have to wait.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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