According to the Health Minister, Andy Burnham, the Swine Flu pandemic has led to a pandemic of public panic. Those of us who like to keep a step ahead of the pack are already even further down the line of hysteria, Andy.
The implications of a panic pandemic are that you won’t be able to find a hospital bed or dose of Tamiflu for love or money. No matter what you have, the doctor will refuse to call out to see you either because he’s scared of picking up what you have, or because new EU regulations have informed him it’s already knocking off time.
You’ll be left barricaded in your fortress bunker peering out at a hostile world where only the brave, kitted out in their B&Q dust masks, venture. And even the drugs dealers have stopped flogging recreational pharmaceuticals since they discovered the big demand is now for plain old paracetamol.
In a panic pandemic the fear is that the NHS could collapse under the strain of dealing not with the genuinely sick, but with what officialdom likes to call the worried well.
And these days let’s face it, the worried well have many reasons to be well ... worried.
Take the story about the special health service website that collapsed under the volume of hits almost as soon as it was launched. Not all these users were bunged up to the sinuses and worried that they might have the new flu.
A very large proportion were just logging on for a wee nosy. Result? Chaos. Couldn’t the government have seen this coming?
Couldn’t they have spotted that once you start projecting death rates for Swine Flu (65,000 according to one, let us hope, very generous estimate) people will inevitably start taking their own temperature?
This was a panic pandemic just waiting to happen.
And as a nation now obsesses about Swine Flu and its symptoms, treatment and potential casualty rate, we seem to have blanked out all else.
Swine Flu isn’t pleasant and, yes, tragically it can kill. But a little perspective would not go amiss here.
Can you still get the old flu, for example? The traditional, bog standard flu that also carried off several thousand souls every year long before the new flu upped the temperature.
The only plus side of pandemic panic seems to be that it can be a nice little earner.
Masks have often been shown to be worse than useless in providing protection , yet have been swiped up in their tens of thousands by consumers who reckon that looking like a surgical extra from Holby City is the next best thing to vaccination.
There has also been a massive run on thermometers and “antiviral” hand gel. Tamiflu is currently the most spammed drug on the internet, supplanting Viagra.
Hypochondria is the new sex
One website is selling the “essential” Swine Flu kit for $25. This comprises masks, safety goggles, overalls, gloves, shoe covers and elasticated head caps. Show up in work in that lot and there’s a danger the men in white suits might drag you away.
Except, of course, that the men in white suits won’t come out because they’re scared they might get whatever you’ve got.
This panic pandemic surely cannot be good for any of us. Especially when there are other things to worry about.
This week, one tabloid paper reported that 30 “deadly” chipmunks (they’re suspected of killing a pet cat) escaped from a wildlife park in 2005. Of these, “disturbingly”, four remain at large and they may (emphasis on the word may) have been breeding and may (ditto) now form “a horde thousands strong”.
Headline: Breakout Fuels Killer Chipmunk Concerns.
Who says we panic too easily in this country?