Horton hears the WHO… about flu


I recently read a news story about the swine flu, which contained warnings from the World Health Organization. This information from the WHO, as well as the upcoming date of May 15, seemed to demand this column. Enjoy.

* * *

On the 15th of May at his medical school,

It was midday and he was trying not to drool.

He was dozing through the long, boring speech

When Horton heard something and sat up with a screech.

Horton stopped dozing, he listened more closely.

He listened as close as he could; at least mostly.

Had he heard what he thought? Could it really be true?

It seemed awfully strange to have a new flu!

The speaker said it again, and this time quite clear.

Oh, yes, Horton certainly did hear

Two words—simple words—that rang in his ear.

“Oh my,” sputtered Horton, “I was never inclined

“To think of influenza that came from a swine!

“So you know what I think,” Horton said in his brain,

“I bet the media are just going insane.

“A new strain of virus; too good to be true!

“The new flu has got to be causing hullaballoo!”

And Horton was right, of that be quite sure.

The media embellished as they searched for a cure.

The reporters kept yakking day after day,

And the newspapers were beginning to say

Scary numbers of great size and bigger than life,

Causing the public to live in great stress and strife.

The WHO released statistics, instructions and data

To tell people what was really the matta.

(The New Yorkian accent, the author then thought,

Was sort of cheesy, and it irks him a lot.

But he hopes you’ll hang tight for a little bit more

For there’s much more to the story for sure!)

“The virus is rampant,” the WHO yelled with a shriek.

“Hey you all, stay alert, for it’s still in its peak.

“This flu may be new, but after all,

“Influenza’s influenza, no matter how small!”

“Person-to-person transmission is heard of,

“And the virus seems to be oh-so assertive.

“Hey you, U.S. residents, be wary. For you, too, could face

“The virus that has entered more than half of your states.

“There are over 900 cases, with more sure to come,

“But feel free to eat pork, because that’s not where it’s from.”

Yes, Horton heard the WHO; he heard them quite clearly—

He listened to their sensationalizations sincerely.

“But,” pondered Horton, “is there really the chance

“That this situation is not worth wetting my pants?”

Horton pondered and reasoned: yes it seemed quite absurd.

Hadn’t a similar flu scare been caused by a bird?

And what about cows? Yes, they’d caused some unease.

But everyone had long forgotten that threatening disease.

All that late afternoon and far into the night

Horton tried to figure out how to set this thing right.

There was some concern to be had, that was true.

But the whole world surely couldn’t deflate from one flu.

No, this epidemic was far, far from chronic.

It was nowhere near to being bubonic.

So at 6:56 the next morning he did it.

Horton went to the papers and stations and said it.

“There’s no need to panic,” he said with great gust.

With that, the media suddenly hushed,

And hoped their breaking story wasn’t bust.

Horton stood tall, trunk held high, and continued,

“There’s no need to come completely unglued.”

“But,” countered the WHO, “haven’t you heard what we said?

“Why aren’t you filled with great panic and dread?”

“I meant what I said, and I said what I meant.

“I think your side of the story is bent.”

So with that, Horton continued to compel

Why the flu scare wouldn’t make everyone unwell.

He explained and discussed, appealing to reason.

“This panic,” Horton said, “Will go out with the season.”

And so, one by one, the people soon found

The flu was no reason for them to feel downed.

They agreed with Horton, because after all

The scare was a tale, no matter how tall.


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