So now we have a pandemic on our hands. Which, I guess, is why we're told to wash our hands frequently.
Unfortunately, the swine flu seems to be all over us, so perhaps the thing to do is shower frequently. Make it with a friend and it won't seem so onerous.
Pandemic. The very word is enough to scare the living daylights out of you. The World Health Organization (WHO) says it isn't a very severe flu as influenzas go, but still, you tend to shiver involuntarily.
The WHO says that raising the flu to pandemic level is a geographical thing, having nothing to do with severity. It means only that the swine flu has the potential to touch every person on the face of the Earth sooner or later, but most of us won't get very sick.
That wouldn't bother me much if I could be sure I was included in the "most" of us. It's the minority thing that bothers me.
All in all, this "pandemic" doesn't seem all that worrisome. The vast majority of people who get it hardly know they have it, so they say. And few there be who succumb to it. That being so, what's all the fuss about?
There is this one interesting fact: of all the nations on the face of the Earth that have been touched by the swine flu, the hardest hit in terms of numbers of cases is us - Canada. The greatest country in the world to live in, everyone else says. But that was before we got hit with this disease. Ask them now and see what they say.
Newfoundland and Labrador has only had one case, at least up to the time of my writing. We could be in the middle of a provincial pandemic by the time you read this.
But I'm not surprised we haven't been hit hard yet. The rest of the world hardly knows we're here, anyway. And as one Alberta writer I was reading today said, "The ones who do know about Newfoundland think of us in terms of poverty and the 'Newfie joke.'"
She did go on to say that Europeans seem to have a much better appreciation of this province than North Americans. That's probably because of the occupation of this province by both American and Canadian forces in wartime. We can thank them for coining the word "Newfie" and launching the Newfie joke.
But, back to the great swine flu fiasco.
The word "swine" does nothing to make me feel any better about this flu. I'd much prefer "pig" or "hog" flu. "Porcine" flu might be best of all.
Swine brings up all kinds of terrible images.
It was a herd of swine that Christ threw the demons into after kicking them out of some poor fellow who was carrying on like crazy - literally.
Whatever it was that was driving him mad was transferred into the swine and they jumped over the cliffs into the sea, where they presumably drowned.
It's taken them more than 2,000 years, but the swine are about to get even.
I don't know how to explain the bird flu or mad cow disease. I don't remember anything being done to them in the Bible. But it does seem as though the animal world is out to get us.
And why not? We've been out to get them for a very long time. Wait a minute! Hold the phone! Now I remember what was done to them in the Bible. The Bible says that God gave man dominion over everything else that lives. And ever since, we've been interpreting that to mean we can do whatever we bloody well like with them. And most of the time "bloody" is the correct term.
Dominion would include microscopic little viruses, of course. But they're smarter than all the other animals much bigger than they. They've figured out a way to have dominion over us. Indeed, it will probably be a tiny little virus that spells the end for human kind generally.
Not even cockroaches can stand up to viruses.
Anyway, I've been struggling to understand why the word "pandemic" strikes such fear into our hearts. It may have something to do with the great flu pandemic that swept the world after the First World War. Millions upon millions died all over the world.
Suddenly, it struck me. Look at the word itself. Take the first three letters and the last two and what does it tell you to do? Pan-ic!
Panic! We're all very suggestible. It's said that a message running in front of our eyes on a television screen for only a split second will leave the message printed indelibly on our minds. What a marvelous tool for indoctrination that is.
So, pandemic tells us to panic. Not really, I suppose, but perhaps they need a better name for that situation as well. Something to go with "porcine."
I can't make up my mind whether the economic situation is supposed to take our minds off the porcine flu or vice versa. It will all probably come to an end about the same time. Actually, I don't think this thing will be very serious.
We'll have something else to worry about soon enough. What? I have no idea, but it will be serious, you can bet your bottom dollar on that. You might even be asked to vote for Stephen Harper again.
I think it's time to stock up just in case. Lots of Kellogg's cornflakes and a few good books. A few batteries for your battery radio. A few bottles of water if you get yours through a faucet. Oh yes, one other thing for those of you who can: a loving friend - or two.
Ed Smith lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is email@example.com