Getting better

The cure for our “swine flu” panic is simple: take it easy for a few days.

To paraphrase Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the spread of the H1N1 virus is a cause for concern, but not panic. Indeed, the last 48 hours have been disconcerting for University students, with the cancellation of the UniversityâÄôs study abroad programs to Mexico and a confirmed case of the virus in our state. But we should remain properly informed of the developments with the virus and should take precautions. This strain is a combination of three types of influenza: avian flu, swine flu, and human flu, which explains why we do not currently have a vaccine. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported a total of 109 cases in the United States, although that number has been rising. The World Health Organization recently raised the alert level for influenza pandemic from four to five, meaning human-to-human spread in two countries have occurred, making the possibility of a pandemic nearly imminent. During phase five, governments should start preparing mitigation measures, according to WHO. On an individual level, health experts advise minor precautions, such as washing your hands thoroughly and in general living a healthy lifestyle. We denounce officials like U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, who have complicated our understanding of the virus. In a failed attempt to compare the current spread to a few incidents 1976 of the same strain of virus, Bachmann stated it was an âÄúinteresting coincidenceâÄù that the two outbreaks occurred under a Democratic administration. Jimmy Carter, however, was never president in 1976, the year President Gerald Ford ordered a nationwide vaccination; no epidemic occurred, however, and several hundred vaccinated fell ill to a rare form of paralysis, some of whom died. Government officials should take a lesson from the 1976 disaster; it caused an unnecessary panic. False statements and rhetoric complicate our ability to grasp the situation, but we must all respond with preemptive and sensible action that prevents panic. If nothing else, this will reveal the preparedness of governments the world over, and hopefully it will strengthen state, national and global health organizations’ ability to streamline response to global health threats.