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Common sense, vigilance for flu

As we try to figure out what to make of the flu epidemic and what to call it, we can't help but engage in some introspection.

Hubbard County Commissioner Cal Johannsen publicly asked this week whether a hypochondriac media was spreading fear.

Yes and no.

With a new strain of flu that populations don't seem to have immunity to or a vaccination for, the temptation is to hype its spread.

We did, covering every quarter turn of the screw, every case of the sniffles that could be masking the dreaded virus. Panicked parents ran their sniffling kids into emergency rooms across the nation.

Swine fear took hold. We became obsessed. The World Health Organization piled on, raising the pandemic level almost daily.

Then when we realized people weren't dying or contracting flu at alarming rates in North America and our institutions came to their senses.

We realized we didn't need to close schools for weeks; it wasn't effective. Kids out of school still commingled at malls, at sporting events, at extracurricular activities. It shows the flaws in our quarantine measures.

Health officials backed off and let local politicians and health experts call the shots. Kudos.

In focusing on the flu, we need to point out an observation Hubbard County Commissioner Don Carlson made: We're a healthy nation.

Various strains of flu have been testing our immune systems since at least 1918 when the Spanish Flu was a worldwide phenomenon. Our bodies fought back.

We can't compare our experiences with those of Mexico, where much of the population lives without running water, in unsanitary conditions.

But we do need to be vigilant, and commend our local health officials for taking a proactive stance. They actually attended a pandemic flu seminar before this latest outbreak was a known quantity.

They appear to be on top of the situation and are thinking rationally and calmly in protecting our welfare. Daily strategy sessions, via conference calls or the Internet, are keeping them in touch with decision-makers on a grander scale.

Meanwhile we can take measures to protect our health and our immune systems until the magic bullet vaccine is developed. A healthy diet, a multi-vitamin, proper sleep and exercise, cleanliness and a healthy attitude will do wonders to combat what ails us.

Let's stay out of the emergency rooms unless we have a bona fide situation that requires us to be there.

Finally we have to take stock of what we've done to the pork industry. The flu has been spreading from human to human, not from pig to person.

In our panic, we unfairly castigated a huge segment of our agricultural industry.

Here's how we can repay them.

Go out this weekend when families are gathered for Mother's Day. Bar-be-que a thick slab of pork ribs on the grill, or take Mom out for a pork tenderloin sandwich.

If you feel the urge to cough, cover your mouth. The other white meat will thank you.