The word ‘pandemic’ should not mean panic

It would be great if the media and health researchers would quit trying to create panic every time a new disease is discovered.

It would be great if the media and health researchers would quit trying to create panic every time a new disease is discovered.

Earlier this year, researchers in Taiwan discovered a new strain of bird flu in a 20-year-old woman.

It was determined that the woman had contracted H6N1 – a strain of bird flu that previously was thought to be unable to cross over from animals to humans.

The woman was treated, recovered and no further cases of H6N1 have been detected. But, researchers say we should be prepared for a pandemic.

That’s right. One woman got sick, got better and we should be prepared for the worst.

Is anyone else sick and tired (pun intended) of hearing this every time a new disease is discovered? We see something we haven’t seen before and already we have to assume it is going to infect the entire globe?

As if that isn’t bad enough, researchers elsewhere are saying that this might not actually be the first human case of H6N1, it might just be the first case we have caught.

Professor Wendy Barclay with the Imperial College in London has stated that she expects to see far more of these cases to be reported in the next few years as more hospitals become better equipped to identify bird flus.

Really?

It’s not enough for us to overreact about the discovery of a new disease, we have to be worried about all the cases that have already happened but we didn’t know about because our technology wasn’t good enough? It’s preposterous.

Bird flu isn’t even a pandemic.

H5N1, the strain of the virus most commonly identified as ‘bird fl u’ has barely made it out of Asia, and no cases have ever been recorded outside of the eastern hemisphere of the planet, according to WHO.

Yet, we have been hearing about its potential to become a pandemic since the mid 90s.

At the young age of 24, I have already lived through at least three pandemics as well as numerous epidemics and potential instances of both.

I’m too young to remember the Russian Flu pandemic that occurred when I was an infant, but I remember SARS and swine flu, not to mention West Nile and Mad Cow. All were diseases that generated a lot of hype for their deadly potential, so much so that many people, including some members of my family, began thinking that it would be enough to wipe us off the planet or at the very least have significant impact on the world’s population.

However, none did.

The human race suffered no long-lasting consequences and still goes on much as it always has.

Swine flu, the most recent pandemic to affect us, killed 18,000 people. That pales in comparison to the 100 million who were killed in the 1918 pandemic of the Spanish flu, and quite obviously, humanity recovered just fine from that one too.

I have to admit the media has a fairly large role in spreading this panic. The blow-by-blow reports of these diseases create the feeling that everyone and their dog is infected with a highly contagious and potentially deadly disease.

However, that’s not the case.

For example, not only did I not contract any of the pandemic diseases I have lived through, I don’t know anybody that did either. I’m not saying the numbers are lying and the diseases weren’t widespread, I’m saying widespread infection doesn’t mean the majority of the planet has the disease and there is only a small group of people who are uninfected.

It is also worthwhile to understand the definition of pandemic. Pandemic simply means a disease that has spread throughout the globe, not something that we should be afraid of. But, you don’t see that definition pop up in a lot of media coverage on pandemics.

Oh, by the way, SARS is coming back. It has cropped up in Saudi Arabia where a camel was diagnosed with the disease and bats carrying it have been discovered by researchers in China. So, better prepare for the apocalypse.

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