This year probably will go down in history not as the year of the swine flu pandemic, but as the year of swine flu pandemic hysteria.
Despite the national media's best efforts, the folks in the business of studying and treating diseases continue to insist that the H1N1 strain of flu is no worse than the garden-variety flu.
It seems the only significant difference is that it has a name. What did we call the flu before all this? That's right - "the flu." And already the biggest effort regarding this strain seems to have been expended on attempting to persuade everyone to quit calling it "swine flu" and instead call it "H1N1," which isn't nearly as fun.
In fact, it was so fun in Egypt that several months ago the geniuses there rounded up most of the pigs in the country and killed them, even though the virus typically won't transmit from pigs to people. Maybe we could talk the CDC into changing the name to the "lobster flu," and force down the price of tasty crustaceans.
In any event, Columbia County's school system wasn't alone recently when they felt forced to send out a letter to parents saying, in effect, "Calm down."
School Superindendent Charles Nagle said they decided to send the letter after answering dozens of "What are you going to do about it?!?" calls, as if the first and last line of defense against the resurgence of the Black Plague is a public school system armed with hand sanitizer.
Accustomed as they are to getting such alarmist calls - I mean, parents melt the phone lines at the first sighting of a snowflake - I'm sure it's not diplomatically possible to tell those moms (and dads, but mostly moms) to switch off the screaming talk shows and instead use a little common sense.
The letter, which also is posted on the school system Web site, does that. In a nice way, of course. "Please be aware that the symptoms of swine flu are similar to those of regular seasonal flu," it says. "As with seasonal flu, most people who get swine flu recover at home in approximately one week."
The letter goes on to provide exactly the same instructions we get for battling any similar communicable illness, mainly revolving around this advice: "Keep your dang kids at home if they get sick, you idiot, and don't infect the rest of us."
Oops. The letter didn't say that. Not in those words, anyway. But you get the point.
Anyway, the best defense against swine flu also happens to work perfectly against swine flu hysteria: Common sense. Take a dose and it'll all look better in the morning.
Incidentally, if you're anything like me - and heaven help you if that's the case - you're glad Labor Day weekend is here.
Not for the extra days off for the holiday, mind you. But because it means all the Yankeeland schools will be back in session.
Why do I care? Our schools here haven't started after Labor Day in decades.
But the day after Labor Day seems to be the starting point for much of the rest of the country (and it's the reason behind the timing of Obama's speech to schoolchildren Tuesday). And because so much of pop culture originates in the big cities of elsewhere, that means just about every cartoon in the newspaper lately has portrayed children getting ready for their first day of school - though ours hit the classrooms four weeks ago.
Now that Labor Day weekend is here, we'll all be on the same comics page.
During the month of September, Hardwood Floors and More in Evans is offering a novel business promotion.
They're conducting a "Buy 10/Get 10" offer, where customers get 10 percent off any order. Then, 10 percent of the proceeds from the order also goes to Augusta Urban Ministries.
AUM is a great mission, and it's kind of cool to know that a construction or remodeling job in Columbia County can benefit the needy - and help the installation craftsmen who need all the work they can get these days.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail barry.paschal@newstimes online.com.)
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