Thursday, October 16, 2014

This Could Be a Long Stressful Winter

The winter of 2014/2015 may well be one of the most stress filled winters in recent memories, equaling and possibly surpassing the oil crisis winters of 1973-1974, and 1976-1977, 1979-1980. In those winters, many with modest to low incomes wondered if they would have oil to heat their homes, and gas to drive their cars as well as the anxiety the affordability of heating oil and gasoline. Those winters were years of significant stress across America.


The winter of 2001-2002 was also a winter of increased stress. Experiencing terrorism on its own soil, Americans were under stress that winter wondering not if another attack would take place but when and how it would strike. While many nations in Central America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Far East had experienced and long adjusted to such events, for Americans the 9-11 attacks was a new experience which created stress across the nation. Added to that stress was the stress that the nation was quickly moving to war with its people’s crying out for amends and its aging leaders voting to sacrifice the lives of the nation’s youth.


The winter of 2014-2015 has the potential to well surpass the stress and fears experienced during those four winters. There is no oil crisis looming for heating oil and gasoline are not only in good supply but their prices are dropping. The cause of the stress are the common flu and cold. We normally handle our own and the colds and flu of others with little concern, but there is evidence all around us that this winter may well be different. A person with a slight fever or who vomits would not give us much concern, but this year our irrational nature will wonder if the person has Ebola and that we will catch Ebola too. That fear will bring stress to many across the nation, and if they later have the flu many will become alarmed. 


This week a person at a community college in the Shenandoah Valley had a fever and vomited in a bathroom. Immediately he was identified as an Ebola suspect, quarantined, the men’s bathroom in which he was ill was sealed and quarantined. Then those who had likely were in contact with him were identified and put on a list.  In Charlottesville a feverish woman was also viewed as an Ebola suspect, treated as if she had the decease and tested. There was no evidence that either person had traveled in the past months to Africa or had been in contact with anyone who had or with any current Ebola victim in the US or Europe. Yet, around both individuals people reacted and treated them as if they had Ebola.  Both had a common illness. An overreaction? Most definitely.


If we are overreacting to these two individuals, what are we headed for as the flu season hits? Are our fears going to drive us to avoid people with slight flu symptoms and colds, force them to go home and not return until they are well? Are parents going to rushing a child with a fever to the emergency room with a fear that their child has Ebola? Are we months away from thousands of people around us refusing to go to church, parties, sports events and other group gatherings, and flying or traveling on mass transit, all because they fear of being exposed to Ebola?

Are the fears realistic? Not from what I understand of the decease but what can I expect when the press hypes the story and how it covers the story by airing unfounded statements. Was is unfortunate are states made by a growing number of politicians and political operatives who during this campaign season talk of Ebola in irrational uninformed manners and speak as if within months all across the nations many thousands will be fighting for their lives. (The comments made by their politicians and political operatives again reminding me that for too many politicians it is all about the election and the power, not about statesmanship and leadership.)


While humanity can be so rational, let's also remember that we can become so illogical too if we don't stop, take a deep breath and think thoughtfully about things.  As for me, I'm going to treat your cold and flu symptoms, and mine to, as just that. 

I fear that this could be a long winter people around us a state of higher than normal stress.      

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