Giant flu epidemics aren't that serious in America. SARS, bird flu, and most recently swine flu never really appeared to threaten the existence of humanity. The drastic reactions and precautions taken to avoid it seemed more silly than necessary. Southeast Asia gets hit a little harder by these flus-du-jour so their reaction to them is far larger and it's not entirely without reason. There's been over 4,000 reported cases in Thailand so far and the death toll is up to 24. Granted, that's a very small percentage and the people who've been dying already had health issues, but it's enough to send the country into a panic. Seeing students with face masks is becoming more common. Even people on the street are wearing them. My classes are about half full now since most kids are either sick or their parents don't want them exposed any more than they need to be. The Thai ministry of public health has ordered that tutorial schools and other after-school programs be shut down for two weeks. I was super-excited to hear that but then it turns out we're staying open because it doesn't apply to us. Bummer! Anyway, it's bad and it's gonna get worse before it gets better. My friend Mike who's teaching in Japan has had to wait until now (school vacation in Japan) to come visit because he has to go through a one-week quarantine/sterilization procedure upon his return and he couldn't take the time off. The good news is that he's finally coming this weekend which is gonna be very cool. It's been 'quiet' here for a while after our initial onslaught of visitors.
If you're worried about me contracting the swine flu, don't be. Actually I'm pretty sure I already had it and got over it in about 2 days. Maybe it's my American upbringing but it doesn't seem like a big deal to me.