This morning the schools in Park City, UT were closed based on three suspected cases of Swine flu (or H1N1). The test results for the students will not be in for a few days so eight schools will be closed until at least Tuesday. President Obama (Wow, what a great 100 days given the mess he was handed!), recommended last night that schools close if there are confirmed cases. The World Health Organization yesterday raised its pandemic alert to phase 5. Phase 6 means an official pandemic, and that may come at anytime. Should we panic yet? No! As I mentioned in yesterday’s post the vigilance and attention of the CDC combined with the on-the-ground tracking by local health organizations is unprecedented. Real-time information is flowing in and people are taking action. This is going to cause significant disruption in people’s lives as cases are identified and things like schools are closed, but there is good news in this. And that good news is, (drum roll please!) Darwin is working for you. And he is a relentless champion.
Here’s how it plays out. When cases are identified things take a different turn. Things like schools are closed, people become more attuned to washing their hands, people take more care in public places (the masks are a little iffy and considered to be of unknown worth), and schools and other organizations take the precautions recommended by the CDC. Which viruses are then passed along? Those variants that cause less disease, those that are more mild in form so people are less symptomatic and don’t seek treatment, weak, baby viruses without the teeth of their more dangerous neighbors. So virulence, the ability of the virus to do harm, begins to evolve away from being severe. Soon the dangerous H1N1, becomes far less fatal, less dangerous, and is more likely to not be something worth the attention its getting. Evolution away from virulence is a well studied phenomenon and, quite likely, as the recommended precautions are taken, this will soon not be much of a threat. So evolution will help turn this lion into a lamb.
So again. Stoic calm, rational vigilance combined with good information flowing to and from the proper sources will get us through this crisis.
One note on something that will try to subvert our calm attentiveness. The news is going to report every case. It will be the lead story. This gives the impression that doomsday is upon us. Your school may close and you may know a person who has been infected. However, pay attention to the numbers. These will be well publicized events and seem frightening. You will get on the CDC to follow the current situation. This will give the impression that the world is dangerous and is falling apart. That the Apocalypse is upon us. Keep your head. Remember that this sort of vigilance is going to keep this from turning into the 1918 Spanish Flu. So chin up. Smile. Follow the recommendations (Including these from the Church prepared for the Avian Flu and full of good advice for our current situation.)
But do not panic. All will be well. Darwin is on our side.