I have a headache, joint pain, and some weakness in my extremities. I checked with the internet and I have either a cold with a mild fever and seasonal allergy symptoms or Kuru, a neurodegenerative transmissible spongiform encephalopathy caused by prions.

It doesn't matter that colds are transmitted by, you know, leaving the house while Kuru is transmitted by ritual cannibalism of the neurospinal column of an infected corpse. The symptoms are the same and, well, I have been hearing a lot about Kuru lately.

I have sympathy for the government and media. Really, dealing with the dissemenation of information on issues of public health, safety and welfare is not easy. Official Sources and media outlets must constantly tread the boundary between prudence and hysteria while communicating in a way that accounts for the American public's antipathy toward compound sentences. Nevertheless, I have to restrain myself from punching the monitor when I see things like this:

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Setting aside the fact that the swine flu just isn't that damn communicable or lethal, peruse this list of "warning signs" from CDC public statements. Those are the symptoms of the swine flu. Or the regular flu. Or a cold. Or a sinus infection. Or an attack of seasonal allergies. Or drinking until 4 AM and going to work on 90 minutes of sleep. Or eating enough cheap, grease-laden Mexican food to give oneself the thunderous shits for a few hours.

While government statements and media reports about the swine flu are always couched in caveats that are rarely noticed and easily overwhelmed by the paranoia of the foolish, for the most part the treatment of this statistically insignificant illness has spawned the predictable hysteria. Doctors and hospitals must take to the airwaves to combat the rising tide of panicking twits crowding their offices and ERs. The medical community is forced to divert resources to the urgent preparation of a "swine flu vaccine." Old people, irrational parents, and the generally feeble-minded are convinced that this virus is the biggest threat to civilization since Satanic Ritual Abuse and back-masked Judas Priest lyrics.

I have previously recommended Barry Glassner's excellent Culture of Fear: Why Americans are Afraid of the Wrong Things and I will do so again. This disease has caused two confirmed deaths in the United States. Two. Does the CDC note that every single day the regular flu – the plain old kind that you will get twice this winter – kills six hundred Americans? Six hundred. Daily. Septic infections in hospitals, the same ones would-be swine flu victims rush to, kill 93 people every day. People who are terrified of catching the swine flu have little probelm getting in their car four or five times per day, an activity thousands of times riskier. Sixty Americans die every year from being hit by lightning. Your odds of drowning in your bathtub (1/800,000) dwarfs your odds of even catching the swine flu let alone perishing from it.

What the fuck, America?

Oh wait. It provides a great excuse to rile up the yokels about Messican immigants.