H1N1 flu virus really a danger?

Avery Thompson
East Oregonian
January 10, 2010

This year has been a good year for the flu virus. An extremely rare form of influenza took hold of the Earth; we called this strain the swine flu. Its more politically correct name is the H1N1 virus, although I can’t imagine using that name in a casual conversation over the term we all know it by. The world panicked about it, of course, but was it really worth all the concern? Is the swine flu really so destructive that we need to treat it as if it were the second coming of the bubonic plague? There’s not really an effective short answer to that.

When the swine flu first emerged in Veracruz, Mexico, I didn’t pay any attention. I’m all the way in Oregon, why should I worry about a virus that’s so many miles away? Well, that virus spread quite rapidly. It soon spread up Mexico and into the United States, and quickly spread itself to most of the Earth. It began infecting thousands of people all over the world, and was hastily elevated to pandemic status. The public severely overreacted to the news. People began to be reclusive and were terrified at the thought of going outside. They wore ridiculous masks to protect themselves from this “plague.” Was it really necessary? Not really.

While the H1N1 virus is not something to merely laugh off and forget all about, it’s not really any deadlier than the standard influenza. The seasonal flu kills about 250-500 thousand people every year, and this year only around 12,000 people have died due to the H1N1 virus. Is that really so intimidating? I suppose most of the panic came from the same thing that panic about anything comes from; no one really knew anything about it. Now, however, we’ve settled back in our nests and educated ourselves, so there isn’t any more panic.

It goes without saying that after a year of research and studying, we know more about this disease. Men of great science have discovered that this particular strain is actually the result of the swine, bird, and human strains of influenza merging into a super influenza. The bird flu, the strongest and deadliest of them all, produces proteins that disable your lungs’ ability to drain any fluids, which can cause pneumonia. The swine flu (un-combined) is actually extremely mild and may not even be noticeable, at least not in humans. I don’t need to go into detail about the human flu, but since we know all this, all we can do at this point is get immunized and wait for it to go away.

People are always looking for something to talk about, be it this year’s new disease, the latest celebrity gossip, or something else inane. This year we had the wonderful H1N1 virus to rave about, although its actual threat level is questionable. I suppose all the raving was good, because the amount of concern was an excellent catalyst to accelerate research about this virus. People are people and they’ll always be looking for something to talk about.

Avery Thompson is a sophomore at Irrigon Junior/Senior High School. He’s an amateur web designer and he enjoys cooking and studying history.

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