July 16, 2009

Back From Bangkok Virus Free

That title caught your eye, didn't it? Get yer mind out of the gutter!

I’m not an H1N1 virus carrier (right now)…and I have the official documentation to prove it!
I was handed this swine flu symptom reminder yesterday when I exited the plane and passed through quarantine booths with an intimidating array of thermographic cameras at Kansai International Airport. The cameras measure your ambient body temperature and, if you’re above the norm, you’re politely pulled aside and questioned, perhaps quarantined.

Lacking a feverish temperature, it seems I did not carry the dreaded H1N1 flu back with me from a business trip to Thailand. The Japanese government has taken measures to prevent the further spread of the pandemic since the early spring. So I half-expected to see these folks enter the plane:

Courtesy of The Japan Times

In fact, the Japanese government gave up and halted quarantine inspections on flights in May because the H1N1 virus was already present in Japan.

In between washing my hands and gargling incessantly – the preferred preventative measures – when there was some downtime on the flight home I collected my thoughts about what I’d read about the H1N1 outbreak.

One thing I noted was that despite the facts about the recent bout of swine flu sweeping the globe and government agencies doing their best to educate people, people are still irrational. In Thailand, they were pulling kids out of school for about a week and banning them from getting together at malls and game centers. In Japan, people are wearing Dr. Lecter masks more than usual despite the dubious prevention qualities.

In other words, people put on masks and governments put out official notices in a fruitless effort to place a guise of control on something that is inherently uncontrollable. Thus, perception of control becomes reality and the need for visible examples which demonstrate that some action is being taken, even if it is ineffective.

I had planned to bring along a copy of Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’ to read on the airplane and get my picture taken with the health inspectors, in their white contamination suits or soothing sterile greens, should they board our aircraft. But King's opus was too heavy, the joke not that funny, and the irony not worth the effort.

I got through my event in Thailand unscathed, and so far I still feel comparatively healthy. So why does everyone look at me with suspicion whenever I sneeze?

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