Swine flu concerns–or hysteria?–it’s gripping the East Bay suburbs; Three possible cases show up in Pittsburg elementary

Update Wednesday a.m.: The Contra Costa Times reports that Contra Costa health officials decided to close a Pittsburg elementary school for a week, after tests there revealed three probable cases of swine flu. All the cases were described as “mild.”

Teachers at Highlands Elementary School were contacting their students’ families Tuesday night to inform them of the decision. … Thirteen children from the school were either sent home or called in sick Tuesday with flu-like symptoms. The fourth-graders, including one with a relative who recently visited from Mexico, all are in the same class. The school notified county officials.

Tuesday night: My boss came to work today saying she did not feel well–like she was getting a cold. Another co-worker has been out the past two days, and was sick all weekend with cold- and flu-like symptoms. She even went to the hospital, and the staff told her that she appeared to have a regular cold and didn’t test her for you-know-what.

This afternoon, two more co-workers complained of not “feeling well” and went home. I admit I had this slight queasy feeling in my stomach today, but I told myself that it was probably in my head because I, like most everyone else, had you-know-what on my brain.

I don’t doubt that my boss and co-workers were genuinely feeling crappy with a bad cold or flu–but not necessarily that flu–but I decided my slight queasy feeling was a psychological reaction to hearing about the growing alarm about you-know-what, especially after hearing that cases of you-know-what had been confirmed today in Marin County. A case of you-know-what is also suspected of showing up in Santa Clara County. The patient is a teenage girl who had recently traveled to Southern California. CBS5 says she has recovered from her illness.

Okay, yes, I’m talking about the swine flu. In no way do I mean to make light of it, not with the World Health Organization saying the epidemic has “entered a dangerous new phase” as the death toll climbed to 152 in Mexico and the number infected in that country has risen to nearly 2,000.

(By the way, I was just watching the news with my son, and he asked, “Does this mean this is the end of the world?”)

Here, in the United States, the number of cases has risen to 68, with cases being reported in New York, Ohio, Indiana, Kansas, Texas, and, yes, California. Forty-five of those cases have shown up in New York. Worldwide, the number of cases stands at close to 80, in Canada, Spain, and Scotland. WHO officials say most of those infected, including the Marin County cases–a 60-year-old woman and her 20-month-old graddaughter–had recently returned from trips to Mexico.

Today, Acalanes Union High School Superintendent Jim Negri sent out a notice to parents in his district–which covers Lamorinda and Walnut Creek–letting parents know that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had declared in a State of Emergency.

Negri said the district “will continue to monitor the situation” in its schools and keep faculty, staff, parents, and students informed.

Well, as I said, I hope my co-workers are just getting a late spring case of regular old flu or cold–although as my boss pointed out (quoting her very press-cynical husband) that thousands of people die every year in the United States of so-called regular flu. And does that fact make news headlines? Does that generate declarations of a Public Health Emergency or a State of Emergency from everyone from Arnold Schwarzenegger to top WHO officials? No.

What do you think? Are you worried about the swine flu? Do you think we’re falling prey to public hysteria? Do you think the press, or our political and health leaders are over-hyping this “story”? Or, are they reacting in a way that’s necessary to what some worry could become a global pandemic?

3 thoughts on “Swine flu concerns–or hysteria?–it’s gripping the East Bay suburbs; Three possible cases show up in Pittsburg elementary

  1. I really think people are overreacting. It’s just a different version of “The Flu”. Your boss’s husband is correct, the normal Flu doesn’t cause this much news. People need to calm down, wash their hands frequently and be level-headed.


  2. The power of suggestion is adding something to this, I think. While there are people who are sick with something, such as your co-workers, sometimes just the suggestion of something can send someone over the edge. I heard on the news last night that a plane inbound from Mexico was grounded (I can’t remember where) because two passengers reported feeling sick. Turns out that they had been drinking and were hungover!


  3. Hung over from vacation in Mexico? Say it ain’t so. But seriously, the great Spanish flu pandemic had a mortality rate of 2.7% Not too comforting if you were one of the unlucky ones, but not the end of the world either. Let’s try to wash our hands and cover our mouths when coughing please.


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