Predictions of a pandemic had become so common - and so often came to nothing - that the reports in March 2009 of Mexicans falling ill from 'swine flu' first only merited a paragraph or two in the papers. But by today (July 16th 2009) the World Health Organization has now declared a pandemic and the disease is truly global. What was at first treated with humour is now treated with nervousness as the first people in the UK die from the disease and, despite government assurances, parents pull their children out of school where there is even a rumour of swine flu.
I'm a deputy editor on The Whitehaven News in Whitehaven, Cumbria UK - a part of the world so close to the edge of the map that it seemed impossible swine flu would ever have any impact here. But this diary will follow its progression in the fine tradition of Daniel Defoe's A Journal Of the Plague Year.
This diary is being started now because 'management' have asked that a swine flu section be set up on my newspaper's website. To date there have only been a handful of confirmed cases (but lots of people with unconfirmed cases); the problem for journalists is that no swabs are taken until people become really ill. For the majority of people they 'may' have swine flu but if they recover from it quickly - as most do - no one will ever know for sure if they had it or not.
Also today, Seascale School decided to close early (summer holidays start in a few days) after the mother of pupils fell ill with (suspected?) swine flu. The governors admitted that, despite government advice to the contrary, they were closing the school. Probably wise. Even if they had kept it open, few parents would have risked sending their children now a six-year-old in London has died from swine flu.