Panic Attack

Since the earliest part of this year, the world has been in a state of panic over the A/H1N1 “Swine Flu.” I remember people in the United States losing their mind, predicting that doom would descend and that there would be large-scale anarchy. Even with all reports indicating that the flu isn’t much stronger than the seasonal variety, people are still thinking that the A/H1N1 flu will bring on the apocalypse.

In Asia, the fears are even worse. I remember flying into Japan on my way to Korea and being scanned at the airport and then once more when I arrived here in Korea. In fact, over the past 5 months, several public schools have closed when a few students were confirmed to have the dreaded “swine flu.” CDI, one of the largest franchises of English Hagwons closed for 2 weeks this summer because of the flu. Several other schools put restrictions on staff (must wear masks, don’t go out in public, if you leave the country, you’re quarantined, etc.).

At my school, every student is rushed into a room, has their temperature checked, hands sanitized, and is told that they should wear a mask. Instructors are also told to be on the lookout for someone who may be ill and report it right away. They are even more cautious now, since three schools have been closed in our area for the A/H1N1 flu. and as a result, canceled a Halloween Party that for the kids on Saturday.

I really wish people would sit back and really think about the situation. Sure the flu spreads easily, but it isn’t more dangerous than any other flu. If you take normal precautions and are healthy, then there’s really nothing to be worried about. The news this morning is reporting the 33rd fatality from the flu in Korea, which is already stirring up more panic. When you think about the fatality rate in Korea so far 0.00006875% has died from the flu.

But with nearly 48,000,000 people here, I do understand some of the concern. Not because the disease is fatal, but because it can be easily transmitted. Korea is a cramped country. Many foreigners spend most of their initial months saying, “I’m sorry,” when they bump into someone as they walk the crowded streets or subways… Koreans don’t. It’s not because they are rude, but rather that they are accustomed to not having that much personal space, so a little bump doesn’t register as an invasion of your own personal bubble. That being said, if a large number of people get infected, then the A/H1N1 could easily spread throughout the country and impact the work force and overload the medical system.

That is the concern people should have. Imagine no one showing up for work or overloaded clinics addressing those flu cases, rather than addressing more serious cases. People need to stop focusing on the death aspect of the flu, because the flu (the normal variety) causes death every day and this one will too.