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Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Blitz Spirit Vs. The Flu

It's official - or is it - swine flu, though relatively mild, is a pandemic in all but name, is spreading, and is closing schools, and stopping the US navy in its tracks, something not even pirates could do. Well, not in Britain. As if recoiling from their earlier gung-ho media frenzy, the British press is now taking an altogether stiffer upper lip in this new week of the epidemic - with plenty of commentators and hacks outdoing each other in terms of their indifference, even disdain, for the highly-contagious virus. "Slap people with masks" one journalist writes. Another mocks a young girl on her "deathbed" - with "cold symptoms". Even on Eyewear, sarcasm drips. It's as if, after the Nazi Blitz, nothing short of the Bubonic Plague is bloody well going to grind Blighty to a halt. Admirable sentiments. But loose lips sink ships - and cavalier attitudes can spread germs. Before dancing a jig on the grave of this swine flu, let's first give it another week, to see what it can do. Recall, a fortnight ago, there were no cases. Now, there are at least 30, with hundreds more suspected, in the UK. Flu cases double every three days. By Saturday, if there are 60 or so confirmed cases in the UK, expect Tuesday to bring news of 120. By next week, there'd be 240. Still okay, you might think - but that quickly doubles to 480, then a thousand. Once you are in to the thousands, you hit millions in a month. Everyone hopes this virus stops over the summer - and doesn't come back in the winter. Science says otherwise. The 50th anniversary of Snow's "two societies" claim was the other day - that literary types don't get science (and vice versa). Journalists should stop claiming this is either too dangerous, or too mild, just yet.
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