Wednesday, April 29, 2009

91 years: Reflections on Influenza & Information

Seattle Times, Dan Eskenazi

These post-Edwardian ladies (look carefully, also the two cats!) are wearing face masks by order of the Seattle mayor when the Spanish flu hit here in October 1918.

Our 6-year-old son came home from school today and informed me that his first grade classmate (the same one he got in trouble for kissing earlier this year) told him there's a very sad problem where people in Mexico have swine flu and some of them have even died. He confirmed that his teacher hasn't talked about the flu with the class and we've been trying to keep the panicky news headlines away from him.

I thought of the masked ladies (and cats) and wondered what my great-grandparents told my grandparents during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 since they were about the same age as our son is now. No family stories of that time have been passed down through the years.

What, then, can I tell him about now when we're one level away from a pandemic according to the World Health Organization? The same thing I always have since he was old enough to walk and talk: Wash your hands and keep them out of your eyes, nose & mouth!

That, and Mama's trying to help share accurate health information on a wiki, tweeting about it, and some people in Germany quickly noticed. Major kudos to EBSCO for DynaMed free swine flu resources.

Can you imagine what impact instant global health news and information sharing might have had in 1918?

What lies ahead for even better information sharing in the future that will make our current technology tools laughingly obsolete?

Edit: Within an hour after writing & posting this, the announcement that probable H1N1 is in Seattle was made!