Since I've been pulling myself out of a local low, I missed most of the "swine flu" stuff. It seems to be running itself out in Mexico, which suggests that while it will spread some more, it is unlikely to reach a critical level. Sorry, Nerida, but you probably won't get your two weeks off work.
I really struggle to maintain balance with these things. On the one hand, I genuinely fear a major 'flu pandemic. I believe it is one of the greatest threats to my family's safety in the short to medium term. On the other hand, the media goes directly from "new strain of 'flu we don't know enough about yet" to "pandemic - do we have enough anti-virals to go round?".
I don't know exactly how these situations should be handled. As a new strain of 'flu is identified that behaves sufficiently differently to the existing ones to present at least a plausible threat of pandemic, what should we do in the learning phase? Sadly, there is no way of taking sensible containment precautions without telling the world what is going on. So the WHO and governments and other People In Charge need to decide how to balance the description of threat so that it is taken seriously, doesn't incite panic and doesn't lead to a bad case of crying wolf in the public's eyes.
So far, I think they have done quite well on the first two points. Mostly. However, I think the only way to avoid the malaise that is already starting to surround a possible pandemic threat is education. People need to understand that if we don't have a 'flu pandemic in the short to medium term, it will be quite remarkable. We are due, as they say. And then they need to know what can and can't be done about it. Not to mention what could be done about it if more resources were funneled in that direction.
One thing that has struck me dramatically is the change in my shopping habits. Time was I could have lived out of my cupboard for a while if need be. In fact, my family did so when I was a teenager for about 6 weeks when there was no income (savings? ha!). I look at mine now, and if presented with a 2 week lock down, we'd seriously struggle. I am not buying up big, just thinking slightly about what would happen if I had to feed three kids from what's inside our house right now for 2 weeks. In honour of this thought, I bought an extra loaf of bread and a few tins of salmon and baked beans. That should work don't you think?
Of course, if locked in a house for 2 weeks with 3 kids aged 1-6, eating could prove to be the least of my problems....