We live in an increasingly interconnected world. All one has to do is look at the patterns on swine flu outbreak to see how the connections between Hong Kong and Honolulu, between Shanghai and Seattle, between Mexico City and Medford have become more intertwined.
And swine flu is not just a Mexico problem. It’s all of our problem. The outbreak has the potential of hitting close to home, as we realized Saturday when we learned that “probable’’ cases existed in Wallowa and Umatilla counties.
We have since learned, however, that the Wallowa County person’s tests came back negative. But the possibility might have been enough to break us out of a complacent mindset that the outbreak is just happening in other counties, other states, other countries. The outbreak does have the potential to hit home.
What we need not do, however, is whip ourselves into a frenzy over all the TV news that paints pictures of gloom and doom. It’s important to be educated on the issue, certainly. But emotions can run high, and we need to be careful that we don’t overreact to the incessant warnings, the fear-raising graphics. We need to keep the news in perspective and ask ourselves what we can personally do to prevent the spread of disease.
It can be frightening to realize that no vaccine will be available to specifically target swine flu until the fall. And that the virus could eventually evolve into a pandemic. But Oregon is getting 500,000 cases of anti-viral drugs along with supplies of gloves and masks to be ready in case of an emergency, and that should help immensely in the near term.
As President Obama said in his press conference on the occasion of his 100th day in office, it might seem mundane but people need to pay special attention to personal hygiene. All of us can take simple precautions to prevent the spread of disease. Just washing one’s hands regularly and covering one’s mouth when one sneezes or coughs would go a long way toward keeping germs at bay. The president was right to emphasize what each of us can personally do to maintain good health and keep from spreading germs to others.
Health officials recommend if you have the flu or flu-like syptoms, stay home from school or work. Don’t get on a bus, airplane or other closed-in environment where germs can easily be spread. People might want to delay or cancel trips to Mexico, at least for the time being, until the outbreak has run its course.
The flu may yet become a much bigger story locally. But for the near term each of us must show wisdom in practicing personal hygiene and making good travel choices.