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Swine Flu. Whine Flu. Quit Oinkin’.

Swine Flu. Whine Flu. Quit Oinkin’.

I’m a borderline hypochondriac. I’ve often convinced myself that simple migraines and sinus infections have been brain tumors. One time, after a stressful day at work, I took a handful of aspirin because I thought the chest pain I was experiencing was an acute heart attack. The truth of the matter is that I’m a strong (just ask Sam!), healthy XX soon to be XX years old who gets legitimately sick only twice a year…with the flu. So, as you can imagine, all of this talk about the flu from swine has had me on high alert as of late. Doctors say to vigorously wash your hands for the length of time that it takes to sing Happy Birthday to yourself twice. I’ve been serenading myself incessantly while vigorously scrubbing my hands for two weeks now (Family, do not sing the traditional anthem for me this year, please!), and Vitamin C shots, Tamiflu and cold packs have become a line item in my personal budget. But I’ve found that sometimes the best panacea for a hypochon is perspective. So, with a little help from two friends – one a nurse and the other a research analyst extraordinaire – here are some basic stats that put the swine flu into perspective:

Swine Flu vs. Seasonal Flu. As of 06:00 GMT, 8 May 2009, 24 countries have officially reported 2384 cases of influenza A (H1N1) infection and 44 deaths according to the World Health Organization. Forty-two of those 44 deaths have been in Mexico. Two have been in the United States. The Center for Disease Control, hereby referred to as the CDC, reports that every year in the U.S. alone more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal influenza complications, and 36,000 people die from flu-related causes (that’s nearly 98 people a day for you math whizzes).

Seasonal Flu vs. Car Accidents. In 2006, 2,426,264 deaths were reported in the United States. Influenza and consequent pneumonia* ranked 8 of 15 in the CDC’s report on the 15 leading causes of death that year with 60,676 deaths. According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, the U.S. reports an average six million car accidents per year with 40,000 resulting in death. Again, math genius, approximately 110 people die every day in vehicle crashes in the U.S. *(seasonal influenza alone would not make this list).

Media Saturation vs. Anxiety. The swine flu virus has become such a saturated media topic – covered out of context – resulting in school and business closings and frenetic contingency plans (like Y2K but worse!). U.S. doctors treat more than 6.2 million anxiety complaints each year. According to Gavin de Becker, anxiety kills more Americans each year than all the foreign viruses, electromagnetic fields, airplane crashes, and blown up buildings put together – through high blood pressure, addiction, heart disease, hypertension, depression, and all the other stress-related ailments. He once said, “With all the risk and danger [the media] bark at us, the news should simply open each evening’s show by saying: ‘Welcome to the Channel Two News; we’re surprised you made it through another day. Here’s what happened to those who didn’t.’”

Diagnosis: Turn off the TV, take a Xanax and calm the f*ck down. You’ll probably get the flu at some point this year – sweat it out. According to the stats, you have a greater chance of dying in a car accident on the way to purchasing a face mask than you have of dying from flu-related causes. And stop thinking about it – because if you don’t get hit by a car then you’re going to have a stroke.

Disclaimer: Should you feel ill and find that your symptoms closely resemble those of the H1N1 virus, you should call your doctor immediately. The said diagnosis only applies to those who think that consuming pork (or a hamburger…inside joke) increases their chances of contracting the virus.

Posted by Elizabeth