As much as the media hype is annoying and excessive, my heart breaks for the parents of the first swine flu death in the United States, as well as for all of the other deaths that have occurred so far. As the parent of three young children, I can only imagine the pain that the family is going through and pray that things work out somehow.
According to the Global Energy Network Institute, 35,ooo people die DAILY from starvation in the world. Yet since these people probably aren’t subscribers to USA Today or have TVs to watch network news, I guess it’s not that much of a problem.
According to the American Heart Association, over 150, 000 people die each year from myocardial infarction (heart attacks, for you non-medical types). The actual figure for 2009 translated into an average of 413 people dying per day, from a largely preventable disease, and a disease that we as EMS providers toil daily to educate the public about and secure funding for programs to mitigate against, but there is no media frenzy. Now realize that number has dropped since 1980, so we are chipping away at the problem, but still, this is an astounding number of deaths from something we could work harder at solving.
Then of course, there is something much more preventable, that of death from injury. According to the CDC, in 2006, people were dying at a rate of 490 a day from injuries. How many times have we tried to get that message out, but have our PSAs relegated to after the 11:00 news when everyone has gone to bed?
I think we need to look at the swine flu situation carefully. We need to take reasonable measures to mitigate against further outbreak and to minimize exposure to ourselves and our families. But like the HIV hysteria of the ’80’s and every other crisis that comes along, the media has done a great job overselling the drama when it suits their purpose, and a mediocre job of helping us get the message out about many other efforts like putting smoke detectors in homes. It is our job to continue to bubble up the real message to our customers and it is our job to help the CDC and other parties to keep the effects of this pandemic to a minimum. But the hysteria can stop already. I have enough drama in my life, I don’t need this to make it that much more of a challenge.
Take universal precautions, eat and drink healthy and stay fit, and stay well. Let’s not make this any worse than it needs to be.