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Mike McFeely, Published April 29 2009

McFeely: Media needs to take a chill pill over swine flu

I have only a few precious minutes to write this column. The materials have arrived so I can hermetically seal my office at The Forum – plastic wrap, duct tape and a 5-horsepower antibacterial vaporizer should do it – to ward off the scourge known as the swine flu.

Time’s a-wasting. By late Tuesday afternoon, the disease had spread to shocking proportions in the United States. Nearly 70 – seven-zero! – had been confirmed carriers of the disease, in a nation with a population of 304 million. Most of those were in New York City. Most were diagnosed with a fever and bad cough. Seven – seven! – were hospitalized. None had died.

No doubt, this is headed down Black Plague Road. Today, 70 sick people. Tomorrow, 75 million deaths and a 25 percent reduction in the world’s population.

Excuse me while I adjust the surgical mask I’ve been wearing the past two days to protect myself from the scores of infected people staggering around Fargo-Moorhead. The mask is a pain, but I figured I should wear one since Sanjay Gupta did on CNN the other day. He’s an actual real doctor working for the Most Trusted Name in News, so you know he’s not going to push the panic button just to drive ratings.

I just hope Sanjay can dole some advice on how to avoid being infected from all the dead bodies that’ll certainly pile up in the streets once this pandemic really kicks into high gear.

Oh, sure, common sense seems to be flying in the face of some hysterical media reports. Yes, we need to be vigilant, even here in Fargo-Moorhead and the Red River Valley. Yes, we need to wash our hands often. Yes, we need to have a doc take a look if we’re feeling the symptoms of the flu. It seems that would protect us pretty well for any influenza, swine or otherwise.

But, hey, if the media are trumpeting the idea that this might turn out like the flu pandemic of 1918 – estimated to have killed between 20 million and 100 million people worldwide, including more than a half-million in the U.S. – who are we to question? The cable TV networks are supposed to practice responsible journalism, right?

Meantime, a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do.

Three biohazard suits for the family? Check.

Sixty-gallon drum of bleach to disinfect everything we’ll come in contact with over the next month? Check.

Six-week supply of Tamiflu vaccine? Check.

Stockpile of canned food and bottled water? Check.

Loaded shotgun in case anybody tries to steal any of the above? Check.

I close my eyes and all I see is “Outbreak.” That’s a 1990s film in which a killer virus is unleashed on a small town, people are keeling over in the movie theater, Donald Sutherland wants to bomb the town to save his own keister, but Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo save the day.

The promotional tag for the movie was, “Try to remain calm.”

I’d love to. It’s a little tough, though, with Dr. Sanjay and his buddies hyping the second coming of the Ebola virus.

Sorry, but I have to run. Sam’s Club has 5-gallon pails of hand sanitizer on sale and I want to beat the rush.

Forum sports columnist Mike McFeely can be heard from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5580 or mmcfeely@forumcomm.com. McFeely’s blog can be found at www.areavoices.com