|Finding a Foothold|
It must be tough right now to be a virus specialist, being asked to predict the future of an illness you know nothing about. How quickly will it spread? How far? Will it get more deadly? And the one I find the most worrying, though I don't see that anyone's actually asked it yet--does it have the potential to mutate? At the moment, the new swine flu virus has no vaccine but it does respond well to a couple flu medications, so I predict that as long as that remains true, the death toll in America will remain low, maybe even nonexistent like it has been. If a variation appears that's drug-resistant, we're done for.
If this does turn into something big, I think members of all political parties can safely agree that Obama will have had to deal with more crap than most other presidents do. A crippling recession, continued war and threat of war in the Middle East, the quiet but looming threat of global climate change, and now a potential flu epidemic. And that's just in the first 100 days; that's more than many have to deal with during their entire term. If I were McCain, I'd be rubbing my hands together and sniggering right about now.
I don't think they really need to tell people not to panic though. I think the general public has reached its saturation point on panicking. Problem is, the media has a habit of making everything out to be more dramatically cataclysmic than it ever turns out to be. Global warming is worrying, but so far not much seems to be happening. The recession has been bad, but a majority of people have only had their lives minimally inconvenienced by it. Now the headlines are screaming about "international health emergency" and "rapidly spreading pandemic" and the like, but here at home we've only had a handful of cases, none fatal, only one even hospitalized. I think people in general have reached the point where they're not going to freak out until the crisis actually happens. We don't have the energy left to get too stressed out about things that might not happen.
If I lived in Mexico about now I would certainly be scared, though. It's spreading much more quickly there, with a much higher fatality rate. They've practically locked down all of Mexico City, which is going to be a big blow to an already-struggling economy. And then everyone wonders whether they're going to catch it next. And if that weren't enough, they had an earthquake today--not a really horrible one, from the sound of things, but to already-rattled nerves it felt like the Apocalypse had arrived.
As a die-hard hypochondriac, I'll be watching the progress of this story very closely. In the mean time, if anyone out there starts feeling headaches, joint aches, sore throat, and fever, call your doctor--just to be safe.