Panic? Pandemonium? Across?

May 1, 2009
By: Eric Lundin

Panic? Pandemonium? Across?

It started in Mexico in late March and spread rapidly; within a month, cases were reported in 11 countries. It"s swine fluH1N1, specificallyand in its wake are anxiety, nervousness, overreactions, and jammed emergency rooms.

The outbreak itself was an epidemic, and it"s now described as a pandemic. What"s the difference? I figured that the one was a fast-traveling illness, an epidemic, and the other was an epidemic accompanied by panic (a sudden fear) or perhaps pandemonium (a place of wild disorder, noise, or confusion). Wrong on both counts. Pan is simply a prefix meaning across. The illness is spreading across a large area, hence pandemic.

Then again, I don"t think I was too far off. It"s fair to say that epidemics can and do lead to panic. But they shouldn"t.
How to prevent panic? First things first: Gather some information. The World Health Organization has four basic questions and answers for dealing with the current outbreak. Need more? Vicki Bell, Web content manager of, wrote an article to help executives prepare their businesses for a flu outbreak back in January 2006 and a follow-up article in November that year.

Second, ignore all the triggers that seem designed to cause alarm. Listening to rumors, bad advice, and comparisons to other flu outbreaks (such as the oft-cited 1918 pandemic) don"t help. Ignore the rumors, check out the advice, and don"t forget that this isn"t 1918. We know a lot more now than we knew then. We"ve made great strides in creating strategies that prevent illnesses from spreading, we have developed vaccines for prevention, and we discovered antibiotics that cure illnesses.

Perhaps the most important difference of all is the blindingly fast flow of information, and how comprehensive it is.

Third, remember that sweeping, preventive actions now are much better than dealing with the fallout later. The steps that various governments are taking sound drasticsuch as a five-day shutdown of offices, restaurants, and schools in Mexico and school closings across the U.S.and these alone might inspire panic and pandemonium, but really they shouldn"t. These are the strategies that are going to stop, or at least slow, the outbreak.

Fourth, do what you can, right now. Cover your cough, stifle your sneeze, and don"t shake hands with anyone.
Eric Lundin

Eric Lundin

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8262