Over the last few days the news of swine flu has begun to disappear from the headlines. The death toll is no longer country in terms of the number infected but those who happen to be near car bombs or, for that matter, American bombs. The places are no longer the familiar streets of Mexico City but rather towns I've never been to, in countries that are altogether foreign to me: Tbilisi, Georgia; Garoowe, Somalia. Sometimes the names are all too familiar, another sign that life is returning to normal: Baghadad, Iraq; Kabul, Afghanistan.
It is at this point that I start to wonder if it was all a dream. The facemasks, the hysteria, the drastic government measures (seven day quarantine of Mexican airline passengers in China, anyone?). Even the numbers seemed to have changed in the papers--while we were reading about hundreds of deaths and thousands of infections just over a week ago, now the papers have a much more demure count of total cases. And yet I still hear the words echoed in strange places. Waiting at a late-hour bus stop in San Jose I hear a man laugh into his self phone that maybe his ill friend has contracted. The kids at the middle school joke about. Even these mentions seem to belittle what I thought was a crisis. A World Health Organization Level 5 pandemic alert, to be exact.
So was it all an overreaction? Probably. But as the headlines shift back to the issues of foreign wars, international strategic talks and diplomatic meetings, I realize that swine flu is just one of the crises we have faced as man kind. With one week's crisis solved, we are on to the next. We'll see how we handle it.