Opinions
Jen Grond/the Gauntlet

Swine flu hysteria is a big pain in the hiney

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Whoever thought to name the H1N1 virus "human swine influenza" goofed. It sounds like only human low-life scum are susceptible to the illness. Technically, it does save time to say "human swine" instead of "human and swine," but not much. On the other hand, with a society full of 1337 literates, H1N1 can be easily read "hiney," and no one really wants to hear nurses snickering about giving someone a hiney shot.

Yet, with massive amounts of the H1N1 vaccination set to arrive shortly, it seems likely that anyone who wants one is going to have to just smile and nod in hopes of not upsetting the giggling nurse who has a syringe ready to descend into their arm. But what's wrong with a little joke to lighten the mood? The hype surrounding the swine flu has reached laughable levels already.

It should be noted, however, that "laughable" is not synonymous with "funny," and perhaps the most unfunny thing about the swine flu so far is this vaccine. The U.S. government has granted immunity from swine flu vaccine lawsuits to companies producing the hiney shot. So far Canada hasn't followed suit, but the very fact that drug companies aren't happy to stand by their product should set off warning bells. With all the rush and pressure to get a swine flu vaccine out now, it's possible that important long-term effects have yet to be noticed -- and won't be -- until the population has already been inoculated en masse. The addition of adjuvants like squalene to increase vaccine potency and of mercury-based preservatives is controversial at best. Many doctors have stated that they will not get the shot and some have gone so far as to say they fear the vaccine more than the flu itself.

Canadians are lucky that receiving the swine flu shot won't be mandatory, but people in other countries won't have the legal right to opt out. Given the typically mild nature of swine flu symptoms, one wonders why making everyone immune to the virus is more important than upholding their legal right to make decisions concerning their own health. If this were the bubonic plague come back for a party, then one could perhaps understand a push to ensure that no one is able to pass it on to other people. The swine flu thus far, however, has caused considerably fewer deaths, both numerically and per capita, than the normal seasonal flu has. As of October 12th, 81 Canadians had been killed by the swine flu since it was discovered in April. To do the math, that's just over three people a week. It won't be surprising if as many people die in car crashes while driving to a clinic to get the vaccine.

That's not to say the swine-flu itself is a joke. The seemingly otherwise healthy young individuals who have died from it testify to that. But the public reaction it's eliciting hardly seems proportional. It's actually disheartening to think that the swine flu is currently meeting with greater response than are illnesses like cancer or AIDS, which both kill thousands more in Canada every year than the swine flu is poised to. It's especially disheartening in light of the fact that the government is pushing through this questionable vaccine despite the misgivings of many medical professionals.

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