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As swine flu numbers build (a little), sneezing in public now a crime

My wife has a cold -- a regular, standard, garden-variety cold. No fever. No blinding headaches. No agonizing joint pain. A cold. The kind that causes sneezing. And this Saturday, as we watched two very long baseball games starring our nephew in conditions that ranged from chilly and drizzly to cold and rainy, she did -- sneeze, that is. She let 'er rip in the advised manner, covering her nose and mouth with the inside of her elbow. But that didn't stop people around us from looking at her red eyes and nose with suspicion bordering on dismay due to the current hysteria over swine flu (or H1N1 flu, if you prefer not to demonize our nation's fine pork producers). "I feel like Typhoid Mary," she said.

No wonder. With a Jeffco charter school closing for a week due to a sick student (read the press release after the jump) and a local TV station reporting last night that the state's confirmed swine-flu cases had doubled (from two to four, although that information came later), the media is pumping up the paranoia big-time. Moreover, the confusion over what to call the malady, and the length of both names, leads to headlines like the one on the cover of today's Denver Post: "2 New Cases of Flu in Colo." Not "swine flu." Not "H1N1 flu." Just "flu." In this environment, it's no surprise that a runny nose is now seen as a potential biological weapon.

A case of the sniffles: My family's not-so-secret shame.

Jefferson County Schools press release:

May 4, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

H1N1 flu confirmed for Jeffco Public Schools student

A student at Excel Academy in Arvada has tested positive for the H1N1 influenza (Swine Flu) according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The student is expected to fully recover from the virus. Following the best advice of state and county health officials, Jeffco Superintendent Cindy Stevenson has decided to close Excel Academy to students and staff the week of May 5 as a precaution. According to the Centers for Disease Control, closing a school will decrease the number of people who could get sick from the virus.

Excel Academy is a Jeffco Public Schools K-8 charter school with 450 students. The school's director notified families today that the school will be closed for the week. However, students will be able to continue school work online during the closure.

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