Apathy and the wolf

Over the past several weeks one of the favorite topics in the press has been the latest fad in pandemics: swine flu. This has been brought about by a series of ominous pronouncements by the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO indeed? More recently WHO has begun to rethink its hazard announcement policies for fear of the dreaded Wolf syndrome.

Surely you remember the old fable about the boy WHO cried Wolf! After the first Wolf! shout the people in the boy’s village rushed about in preparation for defense against the vicious Wolf. When the Wolf! failed to appear, the boy’s wolf-forecasting credibility dropped a few notches. After the second outcome-free Wolf! alert reliance on the boy’s ability dropped another few notches. And so on to the point where no one paid any attention one day to another Wolf! cry.

The problem that day was that the wolf had truly arrived, accompanied by all his relatives. Because the villagers had become immunized against the boy’s warnings their apathy resulted in a total lack of Wolf! defense.  Thus the boy became an appetizer and the village was violently turned into a ghoulish tourist attraction.

Well, it’s only a fable but it has a moral: If you are given a credible warning about an impending danger it’s a good idea to prepare yourself to eliminate, or at least deflect the danger. A year or two ago the non-appearing danger was avian flu, H5N1. This year it’s swine flu, H1N1, reportedly afflicting more than 1 million people in the US so far this year. The average ago of those who die from it is 37. The trouble with the flu virus is that it seems to be almost infinitely shape-shifting; the vaccine that worked last year may well be ineffective against this year’s version. Furthermore, H1N1, unlike previous flu viruses, seems to be the most virulent for people of working age.

The realities of vaccine manufacture these days are that it takes several months after the virus has been identified and isolated before it can become available in sufficient quantities to protect all, or even some of, the potential victims. Now, what’s the common characteristic of those virulent flu viruses? They are transmittable from victim to potential victim, largely via sneezing, coughing, and/or ranting. How does one protect oneself from such incidents?

It’s simple. If you’ve already caught the flu stay away from those who are still healthy. If you haven’t caught the flu stay away from those who have it. If you are also faced with the need to produce income for yourself and/or your family, then by all means do so.

Telework! Telework now to be in condition for the times when you’ll really need to avoid the pandemic. Telework when the pandemic truly arrives after all those false alarms. Telework to save energy and combat global warming. Telework to avoid the stresses of commuting.

Avoid apathy. Repel the Wolf!

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