Tuesday, September 15, 2009

H1N1 and fear

I am not a scientist, so I don’t know how deep a threat the H1N1 flu poses to our world. But I am a communicator, and I know the temptation of scaring people into action. Preachers have a long tradition of scaring people into going to church. The scare tactic is well-known, “if you don’t go to church or have a relationship with God, then you’re going to Hell.”

I’ve been suspicious from the start about the danger of the H1N1 flu—mostly because it seems that our leaders have relied more on fear than facts in sharing information.

Let me be clear: if someone asked me if the H1N1 flue poses an extraordinary threat to our society my answer would be, “I don’t know.”

But I do know that a lot of opinions are being shared and that actions are being taken based on misinformation. (Recently I heard that a church is discouraging its people from holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer, a practice that the church previously followed. I have yet to hear that holding hands can transmit the flu and/or what the level of risk is in holding hands regarding contracting the flu.)

Yesterday a conference was held in Minnesota about the “Flu Pandemic.” I carefully read the article in this morning’s Star Tribune, which can be found here: http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/health/59253022.html?elr=KArksUUUycaEacyU

I learned the following facts from the Star Tribune:
265 flu cases caused hospitalization; three people in Minnesota died from H1N1
Eighty percent of hospitalized cases were in the Twin Cities metro area
Seventy percent of those hospitalized were younger than 25.

I have to admit that none of those facts have rocked my world. More people have been hospitalized and have died this year from car accidents than the H1N1 flu.

Incidentally I believe it’s irresponsible for the Star Tribune to label this flu the “swine flu.” Why have they not followed most news organizations in calling the flu the “H1N1 flu?”

I did read a lot of opinions and predictions in the Star Tribune article.

Michael Osterholm said that he wouldn’t be surprised if sporting events will be canceled in the next few months because teams have too many players with the flu. I’m going to count how many sporting events will be canceled in the next three months. If more than ten sporting events are canceled because of H1N1 in Minnesota by December 15 I’ll note that in a future blog.

He also shared the opinion that churches should not use communion cups, “We should ban that.”

I found the following document written by the Anglican community in response to the SARS epidemic to be helpful in thinking about using the Common Cup during Communion:

I took a risk this morning in driving to work. I take risks every day. I accept risk when I drink from a Common Cup to celebrate the greatest act of sacrifice in the history of the world. If someone told me that there is a 100 percent certainty that I would get the flu from drinking from the Common Cup, I still might do it.

It’s impossible to legislate against risk.

I understand that the H1N1 flu came up fast and unexpected last spring. I understand because of the swiftness of the H1N1 flu leaders don’t have a large amount of scientific facts about the disease. I understand that the flu could kill millions of people; I understand that the Flu Pandemic of 1918 killed a large number of people.

I’m willing to take some precautions, but don’t try to scare me with opinions.

There is enough fear in the world.


Gho Cheng said...

great post

Duane said...

Freedom requires risk. There is a great parallel here, I think, with the balance between risk and freedom as it relates to terrorism, personal information and even to the use of torture. What do we give up and what do we tolerate to be free.