Commentary: Time for some perspective on swine flu fear

May 1, 2009 

This editorial appeared in The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The announcement that one of the country's largest school districts is shutting down for more than a week in the wake of the swine flu outbreak naturally is cause for concern. It should not be a reason to panic.

Panic is a disease whose symptoms include unfounded rumors and overreaction. Such an infection can be more contagious than any flu virus.

On Wednesday, Fort Worth schools Superintendent Melody Johnson, acting on advice from county public health officials, ordered all 144 campuses in the district to close at least through May 8. The action affects 80,000 students and 11,000 employees.

Although a drastic move, the cautionary measure should not be second-guessed. If district officials err, it should be on the side of efforts to protect the health of students and staff.

The same goes for the University Interscholastic League's decision to postpone athletic and academic competitions statewide, and the Cleburne school district in Johnson County, which closed its 11 schools after four probable cases were reported. On Thursday, the Dallas school district closed one elementary school after a case of swine flu was confirmed.

On Thursday, the Fort Worth Parks Department canceled the annual Mayfest celebration in the interest of public health and safety. That's a huge financial blow to the Junior League of Fort Worth, which uses festival proceeds for its philanthropic service.

Gov. Rick Perry's issuance of a statewide disaster declaration should be viewed as another safeguard rather than an exaggerated reaction to unfounded fear. His action ensures that additional anti-viral medication is available for Texas with financial assistance from the federal government.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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