H1N1: Panic Runs the Show!

Well, it seems that the H1N1 virus has struck with a vengeance; if not in illnesses, in the panic it has created amongst the populace.  If you don’t think so, just watch the news each night and the incredibly long line ups for those waiting to receive the influenza vaccine.  Many of those in the line up aren’t in the key groups that need the shot but are just those panic-stricken that they are going to get the illness.

            What’s causing such a panic like this?  When the seasonal flu makes its arrival, many individuals I know tend to say ‘they won’t get the shot’ because it makes them sick or that they end up with the flu a few days later anyway – so why take it? 

            The driver was the recent announcement in the Toronto area of a young teenager that sadly passed away one contracting the H1N1 virus.  Not only that but he became ill very fast and passed away quickly, as though it was a literal sudden attack.  Within days he was gone.  Now, many individuals are thinking that they will contract the virus – or even have the virus – when they show the slightest hint of symptoms.  Panic is taking over reasonable thought.

            Recently a friend was visiting a family member that had two cats as pets.  My friend was allergic to cats – and always has been apparently – but when the watery eyes kicked in and the sniffles started, they immediately began thinking they had H1N1.  This wasn’t the case and I had to talk to them about it to calm them down and think realistically.  Still, they – and many others – are insistence on getting the vaccine afraid that if they don’t they are going to end up the way of the young teenager in Toronto. 

            As the panic spreads and misinformation absorbs into the public consciousness, the lines get larger and larger with many clinics turning people away when the wait time takes them beyond the hours the clinics are open.  Watching news reports, many of those individuals aren’t part of the core groups they are trying to address but rather panic-stricken individuals.  I’ve seen many pregnant or new moms waiting in line while others that aren’t in the core groups getting their shot.  In fact, its now been reported that because of the panic of individuals – including those who aren’t in the core focus groups to get the shot – is causing a shortage of available doses for those that do need the vaccine. 

How do I know this? 

I live  down the street from a clinic in my city and watched the people in the line up.  Yes, there were the right people in line – elderly, pregnancies, young children etc – but there were others that clearly didn’t need to be there; it’s panic that brought them there. 

Could anyone have foreseen this kind of mentality?  Maybe, maybe not.  It’s one thing to plan for inoculations and get the vaccine out there to individuals in the highest susceptible groups but it’s another when there are deaths involved.  Emergency workers are not endless and can’t inoculate everyone at the same time – it takes time to get things done but the perception is that its not fast enough.  Watching the news reports each night has people believing that things are moving slowly and that they won’t have the chance to get their shot if they don’t line up now.  Still, if they wait they will get their chance for the vaccine but their is the fear that if they don’t go now they will contract H1N1, become ill and die.  BTW, the teenager hadn’t received his shot according to one news report.

It’s understood that most people don’t want to get ill – regardless of the situation – and want to be vaccinated against serious illnesses.  Oddly though, many don’t feel the same way about receiving the seasonal flu shot that’s available each fall (in the Northern hemisphere anyway).

People have to understand that there are individuals that are most susceptible to catching H1N1 than they are and if contracted, can cause serious repercussions for some individuals.  The general populace needs to understand that those that can be harmed – seriously – by H1N1 must get their flu vaccinations first; it could mean life or death to them.  Those that aren’t highly susceptible to the flu should simply wait their turn – it will come.  It reminds me of large gatherings such as baseball games, football games, soccer games, religious or political rallies or even music concerts when people try to crowd through gates ahead of others.  It seems to take twice as long to get into the hosting facility (or facilities) when everyone tries to get through the gates and turnstiles at the same time, than it would if everyone simply lined up in order and walked through calmly.  It moves so much faster when order is in place than it does when people push and cajole (sometimes with panic) their way in.  

Don’t panic when it comes to H1N1.  Listen to health care professionals that understand pandemic illnesses and have a better control over how to mitigate the situation.  These are the professionals – it’s not media representatives and it’s not politicians who are driving this bus, though it may seem as though they are.  Let those that need the vaccination first stand in line before you; your shot will be ready when you get to the front of the line. 


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