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Vince Vitrano: Not For Broadcast



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The impact of swine flu or H1N1 goes way beyond a cough and headache.

I continue to battle criticism that the media, and some people are overreacting to the swine flu pandemic. At the end of the day, it is just the flu and the vast, vast majority of us... even if we get it... are not going to end up in the hospital, least of all die from it.

That said, all the reports I've heard from people who have had it are pretty ugly. One guy told me his jaw hurt for a week after. It was sore from the time he spent with teeth clenched, shivering from extreme chills. A doctor who had it told of the painful cough that wouldn't stop, and racked his body with pain every time.

Clearly this is not an illness I welcome, but more importantly don't want to see my children suffer through.

Still, as concerned as I am over that, I guess in my heart of hearts I don't worry they're going to die. The true toll of the swine flu at my house... and homes across America, may ultimately be economic. Let's take my family. 3 kids. One in kindergarten, two others in child care for part of the day, two working parents.

The kindergartner is likely to get it first. So let's say next Tuesday she wakes up... and can't go to school. Start the clock.

My wife calls in sick that day. I call in sick the next. Okay... now what? In some cases it's taken kids more than a week to recover. That puts kids numbers two and three getting it later in the week... and puts us at 2 full weeks, maybe more, before we can both get back to work. Oh... and that's provided neither one of us gets sick.

So who's calling in sick for 10 days, or more? My wife? Me? I don't know how many sick days you get, but at some point, you can't come to work, and you can't get paid for missing. So okay... use vacation or take it unpaid? How long can you go without getting paid?

We're okay... but we're month to month like everybody else to some degree. Some money saved up, but 2 car payments, mortgage, credit card bills, etc. If one of us misses a week's pay or more, that puts us in a bad spot. Not lose the house time, but a bad spot. God forbid somebody ends up in the hospital, we're in trouble. If it's thousands of dollars... it's cancel the cable... and cancel Christmas (no, not the birth of Christ, but the presents).

That's what I wake up worrying about.

But we'll make it. Whatever has to happen, we'll make it. Some, I fear, might not. Single mom with two kids. She calls in sick for two weeks. Maybe she doesn't loose her job, but what if she doesn't get paid sick leave? What if she does, but only a few days. Miss a week's pay... you miss the rent. Miss the rent... you blow your credit rating, and maybe lose your home. Money is tight enough for people right now. Companies don't need a reason to fire people. Give 'em one, they'll do it. Banks don't need a reason to deny credit and loans. Give 'em one, they'll do it. I think that's a real scenario.

People have said to me, "It's the flu, and you're making it sound like everybody is going to die."

Again, I can't disagree more. Our priority is getting information about the severity of the illness and communities' reactions to it out to the public. This includes vaccination clinics. Yes. We're going to run that information in every newscast. Would the critics rather we not publicize information about immunizations in the midst of a global pandemic? What is the news for if not for that?

If the spread of the swine flu slows, with schools canceling and vaccine beginning to trickle in, these scenarios occurring on a wide scale will be averted. I truly hope so.

Maybe this will be the next thing like SARS where we freak for a while, but it's ultimately contained and damage is limited. I truly hope so.

Maybe I just watch too many of those doomsday shows on the History Channel. You know, asteroid hitting earth... nuke in D.C... electromagnetic pulse that shuts down the world power grid. They're good shows, but not much for helping a man sleep. Maybe I just watch too many of them. I truly hope so.

Maybe I'm just a dad with small kids who's a little overprotective, and who's imagination is a bit overactive. I truly hope so.

I'd rather be happy and healthy than right about any of this. Let's all hope so.

I'm happy to post dissenting opinion on this. I know many of you will disagree. Feel free. Emails:

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