Saturday, 5 December 2009


When you turn on TV to watch the evening news, it's really hard not to hear something about swine flu spreading all over the world. While this epidemic is a really serious threat and we should follow medical guidelines, it also leads to many overreactions, which I'll try to write about in this presentation.


Of course, masks can give you some protections from swine flu, but generally it's a little bit much for most people. In a situations, when someone is sneezing in your face, a mask might help. But it's hard to call it the most effective strategy for preventing swine flu, because you we catch bacterias and viruses in many different ways, like touching the doorknob previously used by the sick person. We must also rememeber that most of the masks are effective only for about half an hour after putting them on.

Nevertheless, the pharmacies run out of masks very quickly. But if you think that typical white mask is lame and it doesn't show your original personality, you can buy something more sophisticated or unleash your painting skills, like it's presented below:



In many countries, like United States, when a child gets chicken pox, her or she is not cut away from friends, but throws a special party, where they can get it too. This 'tradition' comes from the fact, that it's better to get this sickness at young age, because later in life it has a far worse course.  

When swine flu emerged in spring, the idea of 'chicken pox parties' quickly transformed into 'swine flu parties'. Specialists informing us, that in the autumn the virus will be more dangerous, led some people to idea that it's better to catch it earlier in order to get the immunity for the later part of the year.  

Health authorities are against the idea of swine flu parties mainly, because there are a lot of things we still do not know about the virus and the disease and how unpredictable it can be.


One of the unfortunate social side effects of this type of public fear mongering, amongst vulnerable and sensitive children, is the ensuing cyber-bullying by text, phone and (in the above instance) through the online social networking site, like Facebook, of those who are known to have the influenza A/H1N1 infection. Effectively, the latter are being treated in much the same way as were lepers in the past.

In one UK school, an infected year 12 year old pupil, as we can read in the 'London Evening Standard', received various nasty texts from both anonymous and known fellow pupils. One of these said threateningly 'You are going to die!'

The report quotes the child’s father as saying 'a lot of people are over-reacting, it's a sort of ignorance …there are some aggressive parents saying none of us should be allowed out. But we are not a threat, we are not displaying symptoms'.

We see, that the cycle of fear perpetuated further, with the inevitable consequence of yet more frightened children, some of whom may react by bullying and shunning those infected or thought to be at risk of infection.

But swine flu can push students' positive creativity too and even make them to compose a song.


Side effects of talked over and over in the media medicine called Tamiflu and the mild symptoms of the swine flu got even a comment from a 13 year-old UK boy. Whilst confined to his home as a result of the closure of Alleyn’s school, though uninfected himself, Harry Houseago composed a song and uploaded it onto the YouTube. It has already been viewed many thousands of times and is spreading (sic!) quickly.

It appears, that Harry, having read the patient information leaflet provided in his packet of Tamiflu capsules, was more concerned about the possible side effects of the drug than he was about the flu itself. From a young person's perspective, scary side effects or a bad taste in the mouth are usually a quite big deal. Even without medical and ideological buzz, it's a quite entertaing song, so here's the video:


iPhone is popular not only for the intuitive operational system and magic Apple logo on the back. It also offers us a countless list of applications, which we can get from the iTunes Store. The IntuApps company holds it's hand on the pulse, as the Swine Flu Tracker got released. It offers many helpful functions, like:

  • Threat Level Page - a web page, that takes info from the WHO's threat level page.

  • Mapping Swine Flu - cases through a Google Maps RSS feed
  • Clickable Map details - by clicking on a pin, you can read more details

  • Swine Flu Facts

  • Swine Flu Alerts - pulled from WHO, CDC and HealthMap Twitter accounts

Here are some screens: 



Government Accountability Office (GAO), which works for the Congress of the United States, prepared a special report about the influence of swine flu upon the frequency of using the Internet. It demonstrated, that in case of protection from infection many people decide not to go to work or to school and do their duties via net instead. GAO alerts, that soon in servers may be overloaded in the morning, as thousands of workers and students will try to log in.

International analytical company Gartner also sees that problem and advises the companies to use the cell phones or satellite net instead, which reaches the computers directly and avoids the data 'traffic jams'. Many organizations pay loads of money for WOC (WAN Optimization Controller) Technology, which allows to reduce the amount of sent data up to 90%.

Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) said on its website, that a suspicious Japanese-language email message with an attached file called "information on swine flu" has been circulating in cyberspace. 'The institute has received reports that the email message falsely identifying itself as coming from the NIID is circulating' it said.

'The email is carrying a file titled , which has been recognized as an illegal program by the institute's virus-checking software' the NIID statement said. The institute did not say what kind of malware was hidden inside the file or what harm it might do. The email, originating from senders in the "" domain, seemed to be sent to random Internet users.


As we can see, swine flu epidemic takes not only medical consequences, but social too. What do you think about them? Are these actions rational or maybe they show how the panic can be quickly spread and enlarged to the shocking sizes by the mass media?


  1. I think, that - however swine flu is of course dangerous illness - it's more panic around it than it's really need. I'm student of Ukrainian philology and when swine flu appeared on Ukraine and some students went back from Czerniowce (south-west Ukraine), media were shouting, that there were some causes of this illness, what finally wasn't true, our major became closed for a week and my friends sent me messages to ask, if I'm healthy. Even man in xero point was making some noises characteristic for pigs, when he was talking with me (ukrainistics' students are well known in this point, because we copy there everything).

  2. In my opinion swine flu is television iliness. Jurnalist do more panic than it is need. It is true that this illiness is dangerous but mask and another vaccinate won't help us. We will samself help us.We clean our hand and we improve our immunity. In this time seson for flu will go by...

  3. I agree that media arouse needless fear... I don't mean these illnesses are totally mild but we shouldn't worry about them too much... There're so many different ilnesses and diseases (not only infectious) that if we wanted to protect ourselves against all of them, we would have to spend our lives on doing it ;) Of course, we should take some precautions but it cannot be exaggerated ;)

  4. I agree that swine flu is rather invention of mass media and pharmaceutical concerns than real danger. In my opinion the reaction of people shows a great panic. It is widely known that complications after "normal" flu are much more dangerous than swine flu, so I really don't know why our society is so scared.

  5. People are scared because they don't have medical knowledge about swine flu and they rely on that what they saw in tv or read in newspaper. Mass media cause increasing terror through notify about fatalities. But we should keep one's sense.

  6. I think we shouldn't be scared of swine flu because it isn't as dangerous as media say. If we will care for ourselves properly, we won't fall ill neither with swine flu nor with other illnesses. Just be resonable and everything will be ok;]

  7. I agree. Pharmaceutical companies exploit people's unawareness and lack of knowledge. They create state of emergency. In fact the situation isn't so crisis. The most important is our common sense.

  8. I think that true is that people don't have extensive knowledge about swine flue, so mass media can easily influence for their opinion or emotions. What's more I've read that the masks are absolutely not protected from viruses, because if we will be use it for so long time it's dangerous for ourselves. It's not hygienic indeed.

  9. I also think that the issue of swine flu is exaggerated in media, more people have recently died on ordinary flu than on swine flu. In my opinion we should try to avoid an infection, but using masks, which are effective only for about half an hour after putting them on, is for me too much. I think that if people want to be healthy they should focus on healthy diet, doing sports and taking care of themselves.

  10. I see one good thing in swine flu - maybe people start to perceive how important is hygiene. Sometimes we belittle washing hands, washing fruits or eating in public places. Now, I hope, hygiene will become an important part of our life.

  11. I also agree that mass media influence for people opinion and emotions because we don't have a medical knowledge about swine flue. We should taking care of ourselves and be resonable.

  12. I think that mass media have a huge influence for people who don't have knowledge about swine flu. But swine flu isn't so dangerous as they told us. It's even more gentle than normal flu. The problem with swine flu is that complications after it are dangerous. Every year more peolpe died for normal flu than for that swine flu.

  13. I don't really know what to think about all this mess with swine flu. Many people die but they also die because of the regular flu. I think though that the swine flu parties are very stupid idea. I don't panic about the lack of vaccines but I also try not to tempt fate.

  14. I agree that peoples are afraid ot swine flu because they have realy poor knowlage about it. Moreover this 'epidemic fear' is also feeding by mass media and medical concerns. We must remember that normal flu is also dangerous. On complications of normal flu every year diaed more peoples than on swine flu.

  15. I agree with Ewelina. People know only a part of true about swine flu and they panic. Media only makes it bigger. And how say my acquaintance who lives on Ukraine "When I turn on TV, I hear about A/H1N1. When I turn it off, this new flu isn't important."

  16. In my opinion swine flu is rather a media event than real danger. Of course a lot of people have had this infection and some of them died but this number is less than number of people suffer from normal flu. People who died, had had some additionall complications with their body system and that brought to their death.
    Swine flu parties, ode to tamilfu and other things like that are ridiculous for me.

  17. I also agree that the whole hype about swine flu is exaggerated. Every year more people die to annual flu than to swine flu. And the swine flu itself is not as dangerous as complication from untreated flu. The only beneficient of this situation are farmacutical corporations who are loading their sacks with our money. It's also ridiculous for me

  18. I got a funny idea! Lets replace phrase swine flu with other disease like dandruff, post some comments on facebook, couple clips on youtube, and then we can enjoy global scale panic. If you are working in anti dandruff industry you may also earn some extra money.

  19. People are afraid to pig group-just as it was avian flu. I know it is dangerous but sometimes it seems to me that the media exaggerate a bit with this epidemic, as far as I know the flu (the usual) is just as dangerous and harder to find a pass but by the mere fact that the media is talking less about it and the people are less interested in it. But this is only my opinion

  20. Epidemic of swine flu exists but it is an epidemic in legal sense which means that some illness occurs more often than it could be expected. But in colloquial language, an epidemic means mass sickness and links with mass death. In my opinion this is the main reason of world panic. And the media exaggerate it additionally.

  21. in my point of view "swine flu" is not a problem as important as media show us, for our society. Every day, houndred of people will die on the roads or on another diseases. It's rather diffenent type of normal flu which is also very dangerous when we don't do any prevention. But, this is a good buissness for many companies, especially for pharmacy, like those pictures show us the typical situation in places where people are ill.

  22. I perceive the "swine flue" epidemic as just an exaggerated by media and other institutions. More people die because of seasonal flu and other illnesses or as a result of car accidents. Of course, it rarely happens that one particular kind of virus causes disease on such wide territory but it is not a reason to cause panic.

  23. I agree that the swine flu is a serious problem but I think a little advertised. Some corporations saw in this a good deal and earned enormous sums of money on human misery. Sold on portals is not legal "vaccines" and medicines. Therefore, we should keep the minimum security measures but not to panic

  24. Mass media have such a great influence on what we think and believe in that they can easlily manipulate. It is quite easy to make people believe in new dangers and illnesses and thanks to them get enormous money.we should be carefull and not believe in everything what is in media.