Swine Flu: Top 5 Reasons Not to Panic

Photo: Swine Flu: Top 5 Reasons Not to Panic: Doctors Share the Good News About Swine Flu and Why People Shouldnt panic Yet

Doctors battling swine flu must walk a tightrope between informing the world so people can protect themselves, and sending people to the hospitals with an anxiety attacks instead of the flu.

But as reports of a few cases in California and Texas on Friday turned into hundreds and the World Health Organization issuing a pandemic threat level of 4 on Monday -- some otherwise healthy people feel on edge.

"I'm pretty much freaking out," said Brandon Syms, a freshman at Boston University who just received an e-mail from the school detailing the spread of swine flu. "I've gotten a cold or something a few days ago. I've been coughing a lot, and I've been getting a sore throat."

Syms, who claims he normally isn't a "germaphobe," said he's been obsessing about the possibility of his cold being swine flu for the past 24 hours -- yet he said he's too afraid to go to the doctor and hear the bad news if he does have it.

"I wonder if there are a whole lot of people who don't want to find out and they have it and they're spreading it around," said Syms. "Now I'm thinking about it all day long."

To make matters worse, he can't stop biting his fingernails so he's worried he's putting the virus in his mouth at every turn.

"It makes me nervous," he said. "What would calm me down right now, other than my mom, would be if they would talk more specifically about what this is, how it affects the body."

Despite the rising threat, and the rising numbers, many public health experts say they aren't too worried for now.

The following are doctors' top reasons why the public shouldn't panic about the swine flu -- yet.

Reason 1: The Low Numbers… For Now

"It's just a handful of cases. It is spreading but it's still quite early," said Dr. Martin Blaser, chairman of the Department of Medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City.

"In most cases, it's just regular influenza -- it's something that happens every year all the time," he said.

Although he expects the numbers to rise this week as labs catch up to diagnose current cases, Blaser said the public should bear in mind their own strength in numbers.

Numbers Keep Swine Flu in Perspective

On Monday the CDC reported 42 confirmed cases in the United States, a country with more than 300 million uninfected people.

Those numbers are exactly why Steve Catoe, a blogger with a congenital heart problem, has decided he's going to put his worry on the back burner for now.

"From what I understand that's just really odds now," said Catoe. "It may be panic-worthy now, but I'm just too dumb to realize it."

Catoe has always had to worry more about infections than the average person. Tricuspid atresia, meaning he is missing one of the connective valves in his heart, has left Catoe's blood oxygen level so low that his fingertips are perpetually blue.

"I'm up close and personal with what can happen if you don't take care of yourself," said Catoe, who has lingered in the hospital for a whole summer with infections that most people could overcome in a week or two. Simple colds can knock him out and give him insomnia for days.

"I am a vulnerable person and swine flu needs to be kept an eye on, but it's not something I'm going to change my lifestyle for," said Catoe.

Reason 2: How Deadly Swine Flu May Be….

Doctors worry most about people like Catoe, children and the elderly and others with weak immune systems during a flu outbreak.

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