I’m sure most of us remember the “Swine Flu” of a few years ago, and I’m sure that what comes to mind for most of us was that it was “just another false alarm”. Blimey, even at the ripe old age of 27, I’ve lived through plenty of scares involving viruses that were feared to be the next Black Plague. First there was H5N1, then SARS, then Swine Flu, and since then H7N9. That’s like, as many as Australia’s had Prime Ministers in the last 2 terms.
(By the way, I should stress that I don’t fault the authorities for “overstating” the danger, as many people have. In my view, it is better to overreact than to fail to act when potentially millions of lives are at stake)
While Swine Flu did technically become a legitimate pandemic, in that it was a novel virus that spread globally, its death toll ended up being in the same ballpark as standard seasonal flu, except that its kill count comprised a higher proportion of people aged under 65.
Of course, all this is in hindsight. At the time, I was a 20-year-old first year University student who had just moved out of home, and my fear of germs was so strong I couldn’t go within two meters of a rubbish bin. Needless to say, I was terrified.
I still remember being shut in my room on campus, scared to go to class out of fear for my life. I remember seeing the signs around campus urging proper hygiene, and constantly checking the news online to hear the latest on this looming apocalypse. Every door knob, every elevator button, the very air itself seemed tainted with death itself.
I was particularly frightened because I was an asthmatic, and I remember reading at the time that people with such underlying conditions were especially at risk of complications and death.
The scariest point by far was when somebody in my dorm building, with whom I shared dining facilities, toilets, showers, and a laundry, came down with symptoms. This was at the stage where the disease’s mildness was still in question, and there was talk about our dorm being quarantined.
Of course, in the end, it all kind of blew over, and I’m sure most of us don’t even remember it as a big deal, but to me, 2009 was a year I felt blessed simply to have survived!