Now. Nobody panic.
Remember last year’s dreaded Swine Flu?
It was the next big plague, lurking on every door knob, subway pole, and toilet seat. The vaccine was a scarce commodity. People fretted over whether they would be lucky enough to get a shot of salvation, standing in line for hours, only to be told supply was gone. Hope was lost. It was just a matter of time before we would all be filling catacombs with our dead, duct-taping our houses.
Now, in stark contrast to the hysteria forced upon the world by the media, health organizations, and governments alike concerning the H1N1 virus, medical establishments and local governments can’t even give the damn vaccine away.
Marco Torres stood on a busy road and waved an oversized yellow arrow with an unconventional message for a street marketing campaign: “FREE TODAY: H1N1 Flu Shots for All.”
Local health officials launched the human billboard campaign at a time when health departments around the country are going to great lengths to spread the word that swine flu shots are available for free to anyone who wants one.
Their advertising tactics include horseback banners at rodeos and wristbands handed out at nightclubs. Maine officials set up a flu clinic at the high school basketball playoffs this week, while other health departments are giving patients shots at airports, malls and even a trade show.
The fact that clinics are practically begging people to get vaccinated is a dramatic shift from just a few months ago when people stood in long lines and waited — sometimes for hours — to get the scarce vaccine.
While the outbreak has waned, the virus is still circulating and authorities warn that another wave of infections could hit. The 2009 H1N1 flu strain was first identified in April and a second wave of illnesses followed in the fall. At least 15,000 people have died worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, most of those in the U.S.
The mass hysteria surrounding the outbreak of Swine Flu was another example of manufactured panic than actual fact-based concern. Media and governments from around the world “played on our fears,” to borrow a line from resident alarmist Algore.
In the U.S., angst-laden reporting by a hyperventilating media served only to scare the bejeezus out of a citizenry which was already on edge due to years of negative campaign fear-mongering regarding a myriad of issues. The economic uneasiness felt by the nation, prodded on by Obama’s incessant use of the word “crisis” to label most any aspect of reality, propelled a feeling of impending doom, gleefully drilled into our collective psyche by both Obama and a flailing press eager to increase sales.
Adding more agitation to the already over-hyped atmosphere of anxiety, in October of 2009, President Obama actually declared Swine Flu a national emergency. (At the time, there were 1,000 deaths in the U.S. attributed to the virus.)
For a bit of perspective regarding death from various flu strains, here are some historical reference points:
Spanish Flu (1918-1920): 50 million
Asian Flu (1957-1958): 1.5-2 million
Hong Kong Flu (1968-1969): 1 million
Asiatic Flu (1989-1990): 1 million
Influenza (Normal yearly world-wide): 250,000-500,000
H1N1 (2009): 15,000
Just to pick something unrelated to illustrate the absurd amount of hype afforded this issue, it is estimated that yearly there are 1.8 million envenomings (snakebites) which result in approximately 94,000 deaths worldwide.
What? No media frenzy? No emergency declaration?
Nah. Doesn’t measure up to a good enough crisis for anyone to exploit.