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Swine flu: Run for the hills, take cover, then chill

Some people get off on fear. They go to haunted cornfields in October to be chased by youths with fake chainsaws. Others watch multi-million-dollar horror movies that epitomize everything that is bad filmmaking. For the rest of us, we simply watch the news. And if you’ve been watching the news lately (or reading just everyone’s Facebook status) you might be familiar with swine flu, also known as H1N1 flu, or as I like to call it, “The Swine.”

It is the end of the world as we know it, and frankly, I don’t feel fine. I’m as terrified as the rest of the world. Dorms on North Campus were delivered cases of Clorox wipes to distribute to residents, and in Egypt the government ordered the slaughter of 300,000 pigs, despite the fact that The Swine isn’t spread by pigs. But perhaps I should rephrase. According to the influential pork lobby, we should call this flu by its scientific name, H1N1, because calling it “swine flu” could hurt profits – although apparently not in Egypt where pigs will no longer exist.

Despite the reassurances of doctors that you can’t get H1N1 from pigs directly, I couldn’t help but tremble when eating my ham omelet Sunday morning. Could this lackluster diner concoction really be the end of me? It was no reassurance that while President Barack Obama was telling me to wash my hands and not pick my nose, Vice President Joe Biden was on the Today show advising the American public to stay away from public transportation.

And just when things couldn’t get any worse, I saw a respectable-looking man wearing a surgical mask. Clicking over to Amazon.com, I found that the No. 1-selling item was surgical masks. As I mulled over whether my ego would ever recover from wearing such a thing around the campus, I came to the conclusion that at least I’d be alive.

But then suddenly, just when I was about to type in my credit card information, some doctor was on CNN saying surgical masks don’t prevent transmission of swine flu. Well, it’s final, I thought. I’m a dead man. But what’s that you say? A different type of mask gets the job done? A more advanced mask? A mask used by the military in chemical warfare? Hook me up, doc.

After watching several schools in Maryland close and right-wingers turn this into a crusade against Mexicans, people are finally beginning to relax. While only 1,490 cases have been confirmed in 21 countries, we have a tendency to freak about everything. Despite the fact that the regular flu kills about 150 people a day during flu season, H1N1 is proving to be less virulent than originally expected. It’s easy to look back and think about how silly we all were acting, but sometimes an overreaction isn’t all bad. After all, wouldn’t it have been nice if we had overreacted before Hurricane Katrina hit?

In the meantime, as we wait for the world’s next 15-minute crisis, I think I’ll kick back with a margarita, say gracias to the Mexican government for sounding the alarm and wait for my gas mask to arrive.

Justin Snow is a sophomore history major. He can be reached at snowdbk@gmail.com.

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