Saturday, May 02, 2009

Hysteria Trumps Facts (Again)

If you listen to the government, swine flu is going to doom us all. Traveling out of the country is out of the question. And Mexico, well, Mexico is surely a death sentence. Friends and family have postponed trips, and the tourism industry in Mexico has been decimated, even in light of the facts which are as follows:

FACT: As of April 28, 2009, there have only been 26 laboratory confirmed cases of swine flu in the entire country of Mexico. There have been 64 laboratory confirmed cases in the U.S.

FACT: A total of 0 of those cases occurred in San Miguel de Allende (where we live).

FACT: Although the media is reporting that "152 people have died" in Mexico, these deaths have not been confirmed cases of swine flu and indeed many of them have been confirmed as plain old influenza which, by the way, can be deadly.

FACT: U.S. President Barack Obama began a speech this week imploring Americans not to be alarmed and reminding the globe that both the U.S. and Mexico have sophisticated and well-coordinated systems in place to control and mediate the spread of any disease. Then in an about face suggests that no one travel to Mexico except on an "as needed" basis. Mexico followed suit and has essentially shut down its entire economy.

36,000 Americans die each year from the ordinary, regular and common seasonal flu. So although it is expected that the General Public will be alarmed by any contagious disease, particularly one that is transmitted from human-to-human, even the World Health Organization (WHO) has NOT recommended a travel alert, stating "WHO advises no restriction of regular travel or closure of borders." See the WHO's website at:

FACT: Swine flu is just one of many types of influenza, or flu, that originated in pigs. This strain has been transmitted to humans and from human-to-human. That's why the media jumped on it; the occurrence of a flu of this type is out of the ordinary. Indeed, this is at least the third time swine flu has made its way around the world since the 1970's.

This swine flu is very similar to ordinary seasonal flu in that it appears to respond to antiviral treatment and transmission can be prevented with a few simple, common sense steps. If we wash our hands regularly or use alcohol-based hand cleaners, cover our mouths when we cough (which is also polite), and wipe down surfaces we may touch with an alcohol-based cleaner, we should be fine. (Note: These are ordinary safety precautions, effective even to prevent catching the common cold.)

FACT: Swine flu is safer than your car. In the U.S. alone there are well over 100 deaths every single day caused by automobile related accidents. With swine flu, the odds are far less and chances for recovery are far greater. If you are thinking about not traveling due to swine flu, then you should probably refrain from driving, too, since it is far too dangerous.

Swine flu is just the latest hysteria that has resulted in irrational behavior by the masses. Before swine flu there was Y2K (that was going to shut down all computers in the world and leave us in the dark), mad cow disease (that would surely end the world in a hydrophobic fit, and even the 2007 Peruvian meteorite (that was to be the first of many that would destroy the earth), and the list goes on and on.

Today I am going to walk into beautiful downtown San Miguel de Allende this clear day, dry and about 75 degrees, sit down in my favorite coffee shop and read from one of the many books I have going in my Kindle with nary a thought of swine flu, which doesn't make me braver than most, just better informed.

In life, including our roles as employees and professionals, we would all be happier, less tense, clearer thinking, and more valuable to be counterintuitive rather than following the herd.