The World Health Organization declared a swine flu pandemic today, raising the global H1N1 alert level to six, on a six-point scale. It’s been 41 years since the last pandemic, the Hong Kong flu, killed about a million people worldwide.
While WHO is urging people not to panic, emphasizing that the declaration represents the virus’s global spread, not it’s severity, DemFromCT (in a lengthy post on Daily Kos that is really worth the read) argues that we should take full advantage of this teaching moment:
While the media includes “don’t panic’ overtly or subtly in every message they put out, complacency is a bigger danger than panic, and the right thing to do is to keep talking about it and bore the hell out of everyone until it’s routine to wash your hands, cover your cough and stay home for seven days from onset (or 24 hours of no fever if longer than seven days) before you go back to work or send your kids out to infect everyone else. And if you think ahead, you’ll stock up on what you need to stay in the house for a week (or two) in case you’re too sick to go out.
Even if, as it appears at the moment, H1N1 proves no more severe than the typical seasonal flu, its novel make up gives it the potential to infect many more people. Seasonal flu typically kills between 250,000 and 500,000 people worldwide; if the number of flu cases were to double or triple, the number of fatalities would rise proportionately.
Wash your hands.