Flu badge of honour

Oh it’s party time in my city, people.  That’s right, it’s flu season, and, according to the Ontario Ministry of Health, “This Year it’s a Different Flu Season”.  And we all know what that means right?  H1N1 is in the house.  And the schools, and the workplaces, and the hockey arenas and the… everywhere.  Are people freaking out in your city?  They sure as hell are in mine.  The entire paper is full of bits and pieces about the flu, interviews with flu “survivors” (as in people who had H1N1 early on) and more and more until I really, really want to cut someone. 

Now, as I’ve said before I am all over the interest in infectious diseases.  Truly, I am.  What concerns me with this outbreak (as it is now being called) is the amount of panic that seems to be out there.  I blame the media.  But then I blame the media for so much of what is wrong with health and healthcare reporting, so it’s no surprise.  I can get behind the need for a vaccine – I am a high-risk adult with a high-risk child, so we will be getting our shot.  I know there are some shortages of vaccine and there are people having fits because the queues to get the vaccines are so long, some people waiting up to 4 or 5 hours for the shot.  Okay, it’s inconvenient, I get that.  But, as a colleague of mine said to me today, think about how lucky we are that we even have access to this vaccine.  Think of the places in the world where people queue for days waiting for innoculations or medications.  Or food.  In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t so bad. 

Every story in my local paper this morning that covers something about H1N1 has an accompanying photo of either A) healthcare workers and patients wearing masks of B) a screaming child getting the vaccine.  Individually would they cause panic?  Probably not.  But look what happens when there are 4 full pages of articles about the flu with the accompanying photos – doesn’t it seem much, much worse?  Of course it does.  Is this necessary?  Headlines sell papers, don’t they?  Hamilton Spectator, I’m looking at you.  I am really appalled by the attention this flu is getting, by the panic the media is causing when they send their ace reporters out to cover people’s reactions to queues, or, like CTV news did, send their reporter out TO THE MALL BECAUSE OMG THERE ARE GERMS AT THE MALL AND YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE ALL THE SURFACES I TOUCHED WHILE I WAS THERE AND OMG I CLEARLY HAVE SWINE FLU NOW!!  It’s madness. 

And then there are the people who need to claim to have H1N1 because it’s sexy or something.  These people I just do not get at all.  It’s these badge of honour people that drive me most nuts.  The ones who are thrilled to be quarantined, who are excited to have to rush their kids to the ED late at night, the ones who talk it up like all the coolest kids are rocking swine flu, haven’t you heard?  What, you don’t know any of those people?  Well lucky you.  Thanks to Facebook status updates I know way more than I need to about my friends’ illnesses.  Real or not, it only adds to the hype.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to log on to Facebook with the following:  “Elizabeth is clearly rocking a totally contagious case of genital warts, suck it H1N1”

All the coolest kids are doing it.

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