Panic is never an appropriate response to crisis. Thus it's important to avoid allowing hysteria to trump common sense in the face of the new strain of the flu virus that's made its way north from Mexico in recent days.
While the disease can be deadly, those few dozen cases of swine flu doctors have encountered in the U.S. thus far have been milder than the Mexican variant. Most doctors at this point are urging commonsense precautions, such as frequent hand-washing.
"If you have a fever and chills and aches, it's OK. If you're having changes in mental status and respiratory problems, that's when you should seek medical evaluation in the ER," Dr. Mark Gendreau of Peabody's Lahey Clinic advises.
"From what we understand in Mexico, I think people need to be ready for the idea that we could see more severe cases in this country and possibly deaths," Dr. Richard Besser, acting head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, said in a TV interview Monday morning. "That's something people have to be ready for, and we're looking for that. So far, thankfully, we haven't seen that. But we're very concerned, and that's why we're taking very aggressive measures."
So, yes, it's serious; serious enough to warrant the public health emergency notice issued over the weekend. But as President Obama advised a gathering of scientists Monday, that order was meant primarily "as a precautionary tool to ensure that we have the resources we need at our disposal to respond quickly and effectively."
Information, and misinformation, are spread very quickly these days. We, like the president, trust scientists and the medical community to determine the extent of the risk and the best means of fighting the disease. They'll let you know, as soon as they know, how best to keep yourself and your family safe.