Last week, I wrote a little article trying to get people to calm down about the swine flu. Yes, it will get you sick, yes, it’s contagious, and yes, if you get it you should seek medical attention. But as of today, the CDC has only three cases of swine flu in my state, and only one swine flu-related fatality in the US.

In other words, the swine flu hasn’t affected me or anyone that I know. Until, that is, I went to the hardware store this weekend. I’ve just moved into a house, and it needs a lot of work. And by that, I mean there are rooms that are unfit for a human presence just yet. So, this weekend, I decided to start cleaning the grossest room in the house, which (apparently) had been used as a chicken coop. You can only imagine the horror of what it looks and smells like inside. But, unlike the swine flu, bird droppings pose a real health hazard to me. So I did what any responsible man (whose wife tells him not to get himself sick) would do: I went shopping for some of these:

Respirator masks, so that I could breathe without getting myself sick. And you know what? The hardware store was out of them! Seriously, people are paranoid enough about contracting the swine flu that I can’t buy a simple mask at a hardware store.

So I’d like to know — and the best way to find out is to ask — how do you feel about the swine flu? How has it (if at all) affected you?

So let’s hear it, too. Do you have any stories about being affected — for better or worse — by the swine flu in any way?


  1. #1 Lotharloo
    May 4, 2009

    Careful where you post your polls. Your neighbor PZ might crash it!

  2. #2 ethin
    May 4, 2009

    I voted “I don’t have it and am annoyed at all the fear-mongering surrounding it”, but that isn’t exactly how I feel.

    I recognize that the risk of it affecting me is extremely low, since I live in the United States, but there is a very real possibility of it affecting hundreds of thousands of people in areas where health care standards are much lower than here.

    When SARS broke out in Asia, the countries that had to deal with it had the money to set up infrastructure to deal with infectious diseases, so that greatly minimized the death toll. Consequently, those same countries are now prepared to deal with H1N1, and since the infrastructure is already in place, they will do a much better job of containing it than they would have done without said infrastructure.

    However, poorer areas such as Africa, Eastern Europe, and Central America do not have this infrastructure and probably don’t have the money to set up anything as efficient. This could result in a large death toll in these areas, and that is the major risk of this disease.

    While I’m annoyed that people in the U.S. are overreacting and buying masks and such, I am also annoyed at the reaction that most of them would probably have to large scale deaths in the poorer areas of the world I mentioned (as is the case with the larger scale death already present in those areas from lacks in health care, lacks in food and water supply, and the generally lower standard of living).

  3. #3 Avenel
    May 4, 2009

    The only way I’ve been affected is the admin for my school coming into class and announcing that we’d have to shut down for a week if even one student showed up with a CDC verified case. I really don’t want that to happen.

  4. #4 The Ridger
    May 4, 2009

    I agree with ethin. You need another option – I don’t have it, my state has (few or no) cases, and the media is not doing a great job – but if I lived elsewhere I might feel differently.

  5. #5 EricJuve
    May 4, 2009

    I had the some problem with the last flu scare we had. I ended up buying a box of N95 masks just to have some in my shop when I needed them. The problem is that the rubber straps have aged and will need to be replaced if I decide to use them.

  6. #6 Mike Duffy
    May 4, 2009

    Over here in Houston, we also have experienced a shortage in respirator masks. Fortunately, being the innovators we are, we’ve discovered a cheap and abundant alternative that is equally effective and available at any local grocery or convenience store: coffee filters!! They can be fastened over the mouth using a simple household rubber band, as demonstrated below:

  7. #7 Antonia Santiago
    May 4, 2009

    I don’t have it and am annoyed at all the fear-mongering surrounding it <- That's how I voted because that's the closest of the choices that comes close to my sentiments. The truth is I don't have it nor have I gotten it and I am a little worried about it. While I do think there should be new coverage concerning this I don't like the way in which it is being covered. I would like the media to stick to the cold hard facts and stop trying to use sensationalistic tactics. If they keep crying wolf, when the real pandemic shows up (or if it reaches a true pandemic stage), no one will listen. Of course my opinion is based on the fact that I live in New York. I do realize that this might pose a greater threat to poorer countries.

  8. #8 IBY
    May 4, 2009

    I do think it is fearmongering. And if it goes to the way of pandemic, we have more knowledge than ever before, so I think it will be minimized. Some countries might not be so lucky, though.

  9. #9 Patrick
    May 4, 2009

    There’s an option missing:

    “I know someone who has it, but I’m still annoyed at the fear mongering”

    A coworker of mine was working from home today – his kids are sick with the flu. Two other kids in the same class are confirmed swine flu cases (some of the only ones in Houston), so they’re likely cases, even if it isn’t confirmed yet.

    I’ve stopped watching cable news entirely for the moment. Until this story goes away, that is. The panic! is growing intolerable.

  10. #10 wombat
    May 4, 2009

    They closed my daughter’s school for a week because of 1 case that is still just “probable”. I now have to endure an entire week of her whining about how bored she is. That’s what I call an epidemic.

  11. #11 Julie Stahlhut
    May 4, 2009

    I’m a biologist and have mixed feelings about the whole thing. We’ve had only one confirmed case in my county, so there’s not a huge amount of hype in our local media. Also, my husband and I fall into one of the demographics that may have heightened immunity. On the other hand, I’m a bit nervous about the whole thing because we’re going to be traveling to Europe soon and the last thing I want to do is get sick before leaving the U.S.

    This whole mess has come about at a point when I’d already started doing a bit of “social distancing” for other reasons — first of all, I just finished a project and left my job, so I don’t go to a crowded place every day, and second, I’ve been avoiding restaurants because I tend to overeat when dining out. We’re also always well-fixed for masks because my husband and I both have dust and mold allergies, and live in an apartment where it’s sometimes difficult to control allergen exposure. But it’s interesting that there’s such a run on masks when there are much better ways — like good hand hygiene — to protect oneself from flu.

    I haven’t watched TV news since the Cronkite years, nor read much print news since the late 1990s. I’ve been entertaining myself somewhat by reading online coverage from the CDC, WHO, and well-presented biological/medical blogs — and comparing them to the very poorly written, fearmongering, and often self-contradictory crap coming out of the mainstream (online) media.

    At any rate, I think that the Mexican and U.S. governments, as well as local governments, are doing quite a lot better at handling the flu outbreak than I’d have expected. Although I wouldn’t want to be one of the hapless travelers quarantined in Hong Kong, I fully understand why countries that experienced SARS don’t want to be caught napping.

  12. #12 spiffy
    May 4, 2009

    I am a cross of two of the options. I am worried that my girls will get it. My oldest is disabled. Last year when the shot didn’t match, she became very sick with the flu and a secondary infection. Since then my youngest has been diagnosed with asthma and has had a rough winter from only colds. She also ended up with pneumonia at Christmas. Any flu worries me with those two.

    On the other hand, I am tired of the fear mongering. It ultimately winds me up and I start to worry about things that are neither occurring currently nor are within my control in the least.

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  14. #14 jay
    May 5, 2009

    It has had virtually zero effect on me, beyond reading the scare oriented stories in the media (and to some lesser extent on some of the SB), life goes on.

  15. #15 abb3w
    May 5, 2009

    Impact of swine flu so far:
    1) I have taken up compulsive handwashing as a hobby.
    2) My niece lost a day of school when the administration decided on a “better safe than sorry” response to a dozen kids coming back from a bus trip to Florida complained of flu-like symptoms (although it may have just been kids seeing if they could get a day off).
    3) I’ve been playing more Pandemic 2, and now understand the President Madagascar “Shut Down EVERYTHING!” meme. (Wiping out those pesky humans is harder than you’d think….)

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