OPINION: Flu hard to stop; I know, I tried it, millions died

A friend of mine told me her son had been exposed to swine flu during his first week of school. Great, I thought. This kid is in public schools where he’s surrounded by his neighbors. Next week, classes begin here at Ole Miss and I’ll be surrounded by students from around the world.
I don’t want to be an alarmist but I have this feeling of impending doom, like insurance companies taking over health care and declaring that pre-existing conditions won’t be covered and, since you existed previously, you’re not eligible.
Outbreaks of the swine flu are almost a certainty as we head into another flu season and another school year.
Students share all kinds of things from computers to cell phones to beer bottles, all of them crawling with more bugs than the Bush administration National Security Agency. I wouldn’t be surprised to see face masks joining big sunglasses, Nike shorts and flip-flops as the new school uniform on the Ole Miss campus.
The recommended, and obvious, means of prevention, of course, is frequent handwashing, a habit I’ve tried to get into this summer to the point where I no longer have any fingerprints and my skin is as dry and wrinkled as elephant hide. And, of course, Ole Miss, like other schools, has a plan in place for dealing with any outbreaks, such as holding your breath until it’s over.
That’s because there’s really not much you can do to prevent outbreaks as I found out this week. After reading a story about a game developed by some Dutch health researchers, I decided to try my hand at stopping a global flu pandemic. The result? We’re doomed, at least if I’m in charge.
The game is one of those Internet time-wasters that’s free online at www.thegreatflu.com. It’s called the Great Flu Game although I’m not sure if “great” refers to the flu or the game. In my opinion, neither are that great. You’re the head of the World Pandemic Control Agency and you get to choose between five flu strains ranging from mild (only one skull) to severe (five skulls). You have $2 billion to combat the strain and a range of options from closing schools to funding research to stockpiling one of two vaccines and anti-viral drugs.
My flu started in India and Pakistan on Feb. 21. Despite all my efforts and $1.3 billion in spending, by the time the pandemic was under control 33 days later, two billion people had been infected and 195 million had died. I don’t expect to be getting any calls from the CDC seeking advice.
So it’s back to handwashing, unless someone knows where I can get a working haz-mat suit cheap before next week.

Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by e-mail at marusse1@olemiss.edu.

Marty Russell

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