Much ado about swine flu: If it's serious, why no quarantine?
Sunday's big Elmbrook news was that Tonawanda Elementary School will be closed for the week because of a confirmed case of swine flu*. That sounds serious. But is it?
It seems the swine flu is already fizzling out in Mexico; the worst is over. That is very good news indeed. According to the CDC:
In the United States, the flu has spread to 30 states and infected 226 people, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. It seems to be hitting mostly younger people, with very few cases in those over 50 years old. [nN03327731]
CDC acting director Richard Besser said there were "encouraging signs" the new strain was not more severe than what would be seen during normal seasonal flu.
But he still expected the virus to have a "significant impact" on people's health. "We're not out of the woods," Besser told "Fox News Sunday." [nN03498213]
So CDC's director says the swine flu is pretty much like the normal flu we experience every year. This is not the BIG ONE like the flu pandemic of 1918. But if it was, would simply closing schools have prevented its spread and death?
What will Tonawanda students do this week while not in school? Concerned parents might keep their kids at home, but probably most kids will view this as another week of vacation and play! Working parents must find day care for their children--so much for keeping the germs at bay.
In Milwaukee, the middle school and high school students will no doubt hang out at the malls and movie theaters. Again, so much for reducing exposure to the flu bug.
Do we as a society even understand the concept of keeping our germs to ourselves anymore? It does not seem so. Many businesses no longer give workers designated sick days; instead they have Personal Time Off--PTO days--days off given for any reason. But no one wants to give up a potential vacation day when they are sick. Consequently, they come to work when they should be home convalescing and share their germs with coworkers.
The idea of a quarantine is long gone too. Yesterday, my neighbor and I were talking about the current swine flu hype and reminisced about the polio quarantine in the early 1950s. She and I both remembered that summer in the 1950s when we could not leave our yards. No playing with the neighbor kids. No going to the school playground. We were grounded--quarantined--for what seemed to be an eternity. Polio was a real threat back then; there was and still is no cure.
If this flu outbreak was the big one, we certainly have not gone about preventing its spread very well. Our borders are still open. (Google maps doesn't have all the cases but gives an idea of where swine flu hot spots are.)
Some schools might be closed this week. Thankfully, this time I don't think it really matters what the kids do on their time off--it's just the flu. I do hope we get our act together though. One of these times, the warning won't just be hype; it will be real.
*With today's Nanny State mentality, I suppose it was too much to hope that parents would be the ones to decide if their child should attend school or not. It seems it was the Waukesha County Health Department's call to close the school. Dr. Gibson did request that students avoid contact with each other for the week.