An epidemic of [swine flu] fear

I just got vaccinated today at Cal Poly Pomona’s Student Health Services.

It was free, and despite the concerns over the mercury thermosal (used to preserve the vaccine and prevent germs) and the minute chance of autism, I took the plunge.

It was the injection and not the nasal spray, but it was painless — other than a sore left arm, which is standard for all shots.

Maybe it’s my laid-back northern California nature, but I’m really not too worried. People have been getting vaccinations all through their lives, and not until there’s one for this new case of H1N1, or swine flu, does everyone become a cynic.

WIRED magazine had a cover story last month called An Epidemic Of Fear that is an enlightening read. The jist? Like with all controversial topics, there’s a plethora of misinformation that floats around, much of it coming from bias sources with a stake in the game. Jenny McCarthy is one advocate linking autism to vaccinations, despite evidence that proves otherwise.

The article reads:

The parent who reads what Jenny McCarthy says and thinks, ‘Well, maybe I shouldn’t get this vaccine,’ and their child dies of Hib meningitis,” he says, shaking his head. “It’s such a fundamental failure on our part that we haven’t convinced that parent.” Consider: In certain parts of the US, vaccination rates have dropped so low that occurrences of some children’s diseases are approaching pre-vaccine levels for the first time ever.

If you want to prove me wrong, go read this: http://bit.ly/5PughD. I don’t doubt that there’s research and studies to link vaccinations to autism and other harmful things, but contracting swine flu is pretty harmful too. Perhaps less severe, but I’ll take my chances and avoid the current pandemic.

from wired.com

I did a feature on swine flu concerns on college campuses recently for 89.3 KPCC.

DOWNLOAD THIS MP3:
http://www.box.net/shared/ng7bgol919

[file name = swine flu college mixdown]

It’s my public radio debut and I don’t have mp3 uploading capabilities on the blog just yet. Here’s the script:

H1N1 – the “swine flu” virus – is hitting young people especially hard.  That’s why local college campuses are on guard.  But getting students to take the “swine flu” threat seriously can be a challenge.  Reporter Daniel Ucko has our story from Cal Poly Pomona.

Daniel Ucko: It’s lunchtime – and thousands of students are roaming the Cal Poly Pomona campus. It’s “university hour” – with no classes in session. Think recess for big kids.

Ucko: It’s the perfect time for Student Health Services workers to pass out fliers that remind people to practice basic hygiene to avoid the flu. But it’s a tough sell.

Eric Au: I’m actually not too worried about it.

Ucko: Cal Poly junior and graphic designer Eric Au says he’s not worried about the “swine flu” even though faculty and students file in and out of his campus office all day. He admits that where he works, germs spread easily.

Au: Anytime flu season comes around or something, we always have that talk in a meeting. And so if this is indeed still flaring up, we’re definitely gonna talk about it here.

Ucko: David Patterson is doing more than talking. He’s Cal Poly Pomona’s director of environmental health and safety.

David Patterson: I would say we have to plan for the fact that we will probably see some cases on campus.

Ucko: There’s only been one confirmed case of H1N1 at Cal Poly Pomona. But it’s hard to say for sure. The campus health center no longer tests for the virus. New guidelines from the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say test only if a patient is hospitalized. The CDC says health officials should instead focus on treatment and containment. David Patterson.

Patterson: It’s the same thing if you live at home and the same thing if you go shopping down at the mall. An old adage I’ve used for years and years is to keep four feet most of the time between you and other people. Avoid sneezing or coughing on people by covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough. You know, frequently washing your hands.

Ucko: Next week, Cal Poly Pomona will host one of LA County’s H1N1 vaccination clinics. The university has a “swine flu” web page that answers basic questions about the virus, and debunks myths – including one that got some play on campus.

Ucko: The agricultural school has about 10 pigs in its swine unit. Despite a campus rumor, you can’t get “swine flu” from these specially bred Cal Poly pigs. But grab your little brother’s piggy bank while he’s sick in bed – and you just might get it.

Patterson: Pretty much the same thing we’ve heard again and again.

Ucko: Cal Poly Pomona health and safety director David Patterson.

Patterson: The issue here is that this is the flu, and given the current severity that CDC’s reporting on the H1N1, it’s a fairly mild version. So it’s as much the same precaution as for any flu or any diseases. It’s all about protections the individual can do or things the individual can do to reduce their chance or risk.

Ucko: Of particular worry on campus are dormitories, shared bathrooms – and, of course, frat parties.

Nick Spagnola: I’ve made a joke that I think that there’s going to be a correlation between the spread of swine flu and the amount of frat parties attended by freshmen.

Ucko: Senior Nick Spagnola is a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. He thinks the H1N1 virus will spread when partygoers share drinks. But he says there could be an upside to an outbreak.

Spagnola: Oh absolutely! If it becomes like a serious thing, I intend to miss class a decent amount. I’m not saying it’s a good idea to lie to teachers or any sort of administrator or anyone listening, but if I was looking in my arsenal of excuses, “swine flu” would probably pop up there.

Ucko: Cal Poly Pomona anticipated a pandemic of phony “swine flu” absences. Professors will post class notes online for students who really are sick – but those students will need a note from the doctor.

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