It was new, it was scary, it was somewhere, it was everywhere. No-one had it, lots of people had it, it was deadly, it was harmless. The media wet their pants over it, the media lost interest over it. What on earth happened to the swine flu?
It certainly hasn’t disappeared. Ironically enough for a so-called “Mexican Flu”, I’ve been passed over while my young brother in Wellington was hit.
The short answer is that it’s still spreading out of control across the world. But it doesn’t seem to be any more deadly than other flu strains that crop up every winter.
Here in Mexico, the southern states are reporting a surge of H1N1 flu cases. Jalisco (my state) has 802 cases, with five reported deaths. For a state with almost 7 million people, that’s not many – even when you include estimated unreported cases.
Countries like Great Britain and Australia seem to have it much tougher. 100,000 people were infected just last week (as of 23 July) in England, double the week before. When winter hits, the numbers are expected to jump again.
As the WHO (World Health Organisation) predicted, travel bans to/from Mexico were a waste of time. Yet the Mexican tourist locales like Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and Acapulco were still hammered by the fear of the flu – even though there were no flu cases in those areas.
The WHO has given up trying to count cases. They reckon that the virus has now hit 160 countries and could infect 2 billion people in the next two years. All they can do now is give advice and encourage vaccination.
So was the swine flu overhyped? Probably. It certainly generated a lot of advertising income from media coverage.
What SHOULD we be worried about? Stephen Hawking believes that the two biggest threats to humankind are climate change, and a virus genetically modified by terrorists that has no human immune response. On climate change, the bumbling, inept moves of the current New Zealand government is an example of how most of the world is failing to take heed of this clear and present danger. And the GM virus threat seems to be relegated to the realm of B-grade movies.
For readers who will be infected by this flu over the next two years, keep warm, rested and hydrated. But don’t worry too much – chances are, you’ll be ok.