Days of swine & noses

Call it what you want, H1N1 is the talk of the town.RN&R editors hit the street to see what people are saying.

Swine flu came to Reno on the heels of spring. In a matter of days, it seemed, every childhood sniffle went from, “Aw, it’s a cold,” to “Do we need to go to the hospital?”

Fear ruled the news cycle. It seemed every opinion was represented. The problem was none of the experts really knew the future. And then the worry really struck home. On April 29, Washoe County health officials reported that a 2-year-old was suffering from the swine flu. The good news: The child was recovering. The bad news, according to health officials: “People with swine flu may be able to infect others one day before they have symptoms and up to seven or more days after becoming sick. This means that they may be able to pass it on to someone else before they know they are sick, as well as while they are sick.”

Officials’ advice was pretty standard for any flu virus. Wash your hands often. Cough or sneeze into your elbow or sleeve to prevent infected droplets from coming into contact with other people and surfaces they might touch. Stay home when you are sick to avoid exposing others to your illness.

In a desperate attempt to get in on the media frenzy, RN&R editors D. Brian Burghart, Kat Kerlin, Dennis Myers and Brad Bynum hit the streets to see what people were saying and how they were coping in this latest disaster during a tough year. Each editor went to two locations and asked three questions of those who consented to interviews:

• Question 1: What do you think of swine flu?
• Question 2: Is the media sensationalizing the disease?
• Question 3: Are you doing anything to protect yourself?

At press deadline, it seems there is little consensus as to what the H1N1 virus is going to mean to the world’s population. Some media reports and experts are saying the worst is over, and the flu was not as deadly as first feared. Others are saying it’s still too soon to tell, and the virus may mutate and return with new virulence in the autumn. There are only three confirmed cases of swine flu in Washoe County, and 403 in the nation.


Nikos Theologitis, owner Niko’s Greek Kitchen

1. Actually, I kind of worry because I have kids that go to school. My youngest was just having a little sore throat and headache, and I even had to close the store to make sure this was fine. So that’s one of my worries. But overall, dealing with money and transactions here, a lot of people, it’s something I have to think about. So I’m not really in a danger-zone worry, but I am concerned. I feel bad about all these other people that got into situations—even now, this little baby that’s in the hospital, the 2-year-old—it’s hard on the babies and older people, too.

2. I don’t think so. The media is still learning as we go on. It’s hard to judge, the media do whatever they can to inform people and the public, and I think so far they’ve been doing great.

3. Yes. I wash my hands a little more often than I normally would, and at the same time, when I start dealing with a lot more people, I work with rubber gloves to do what I have to do when I deal with the public.

Scott Dunseath, owner Reno eNVy

1. I think the name is hilarious, first of all. We were just making jokes yesterday. First it was the avian flu, and then SARs, and now it’s the swine flu. I don’t know. Initially, those things don’t ever seem to impact me. But I was watching the news this morning, and the idea that Mexico shut down for five days, obviously I’m taking it a little more seriously than normal.

2. I don’t know. It does seem to me the media tends to sensationalize things. But in this case, again, given that Mexico has shut down entirely for five days, I think it’s fair for those guys to report on it in the manner that they have been reporting on it.

3. Not a thing. Nothing. I’m still eating pork. My buddy Jay, my business partner actually, was wearing a mask as a joke. And because it’s Cinco de Mayo he put a little Mexican moustache on it and said “Alto! Alto!” I took a picture of it and put it up on his Facebook. So right now we’re having—knock on wood—we’re having fun with it. Personally, it hasn’t impacted me a bit, and I haven’t done anything.

James Graham, economic development manager

1. I think this whole swine flu epidemic is worrisome, it’s bothersome. We’re now at five, in term of the World Health Organization’s designation, so we’re one more step to a pandemic. So it’s bothersome, it’s worrisome.

2. The media has a tough job. It has to walk a thin line between telling us what the facts are and reporting incidences of swine flu. So it’s a very thin line that you have to walk. It’s a difficult situation. I think the more we hear about it, the more bothersome and worrisome it becomes. By virtue of that, it looks as though you’re sensationalizing it. All media is not the same. Some, like Fox News, might give it a little sensation, or some of those other kind of rag magazines and TV shows, would give it a little sensationalism and maybe try to blame it on somebody.

3. Strangely enough, we were planning a trip to Mexico. That’s out. I’d never been to Mexico and was looking forward to going.

Gillian Pollard, economic development project manager

1. I just got back into the country, and this morning was the first time I heard about the swine flu as I got in here. However, as I was coming through the airport from Guyana, South America, the customs inspections was a little more rigid and I did not know why. They were looking for a lot of food items. I did not know why, but shortly I discovered why. So it does not panic me. I’m from a developing country and these things do not phase me.

2. I have not heard anything on the media. In fact, I heard it on my way to work this morning on the radio for two minutes. So far, I’m not alarmed.

3. No. I don’t have the time. In fact, when I heard “swine flu” I thought it was about pork, and about meat. I don’t eat a lot of pork, so I thought, ‘This does not concern me at all.’ Then, I heard on the radio it was not about pork, so I figure maybe it’s just another strain of flu that’s out there. For now, with my limited knowledge, it’s just another strain of flu; it has nothing to do with swine. Where I came from [Guyana], there was no talk about swine flu, there was no talk about any other kind of flu until I came here. So it must be a little isolated to the U.S. and Mexico. I also did not hear about any recessions.

Bob Zukor, owner of Zukor’s

1. Right now, I think it’s too early, from what I understand on the radio and the media. It’s going to take a little bit of time to figure out what is going to happen, is what I think right now. Wait and see.

2. Yeah, I think so, they are sensationalizing it. It’s on the radio all the time, the TV. Yeah, I think so.

3. Nothing. Well, actually I wash my hands. Because I’m dealing with the public all day long, and I wash my hands. It’s not airborne from what I understand. It has to come from droplets, like if someone sneezes. So, just wash my hands, that’s it. And if somebody sneezes, I stay out of the way. That’s about it.


Shelley Goodin, barista

1. It spreads pretty quickly, it seems like, and it’s throwing a lot of people off kilter and light panic. I’m definitely thinking about it. Obviously, it’s serious. Reading in the papers, it’s like, it’s developing from pigs and we can’t do anything about it yet. They were saying if you get to the hospital early enough, it can be treated, but otherwise, I don’t know. And especially since my boss wrote on the board “Swine flu is in Reno now,” so….

2. It definitely could be. I’ve thought of that reading stuff. I was looking at the San Francisco Chronicle, and there were two swine flu articles on the front and another one inside somewhere else and I was like there’s nothing else going on in the world? When you look at that and think surely it started in Mexico, I guess, and has spread so much and is popping up everywhere else. But when you look at how many people have died compared to how many people have gotten sick, there’s not that many people dying from having gotten sick in the first place. So what’s the big deal, really? It’s a big deal, but we’re not going to drop dead like right now.

3. No.

Jenna Peterson, high school student

1. I just think it’s kind of a fluke. There’s thousands of flus every year and their just making this big deal out of this one flu, that’s just killed only 100 people and some flus have killed thousands, but they’re not making a big deal about those.

2. Oh, my gosh, yes. So much. They are overreacting way too much. It’s just the flu, it’s not like an AIDs breakout. It’s just the flu and it’s only killed like probably 100 or 200 people.

3. I’m already a neat freak enough. I wash my hands daily, but I’m not doing anything more as a precaution.

Dennis Medina, college student

1. I think it’s like the bird flu. When that came out, people were freaking out as much as they are now, and you don’t hear about that anymore, so I think it will pass in time.

2. Yeah, totally, like she said. They’re just overdoing it. I think there’s a lot more they could be focusing on instead of just the swine flu.

3. Not really. I haven’t changed my lifestyle at all. I do the same things I do every day, and I feel fine.

Shaina Beesemyer, medical student

1. I am personally not very worried about it because tens of thousands of people die every year from other strains of the flu and that hasn’t been in the news at all. But there’s always the possibility of a new strain forming or a new strain gaining the possibility of being transmittable between humans, or swine to humans, birds to humans, basically the same scare we had last year. That’s always a possibility, and it’s just now happened, or at least we know that it’s happened, it could have happened previously, as well. It seems to me if people are just being safe and sanitary like they normally should be, like washing their hands and covering their mouths when they sneeze or cough, that it shouldn’t eb a big deal. I do think it was a good idea that Mexico City closed their schools and probably their public transportation system, because those are the main avenues of transmission. But to shut down an entire country. Even in America, we closed Texas schools and Alabama schools, it seems a little fear-mongerish to me. … And you know, I’m going to Mexico. I’m actually, I did have a friend who went to China during SARs and walked on the Great Wall by himself, which is something nobody gets to do anymore. So I might have the beach all to myself because people are scared to go there.

2. Yes, I kind of do. I think the media has a purpose and that if an outbreak really did happen that they’d be functional in spreading that information, but I also think that they can really freak people out. A lot of people are calling their doctors a lot, saying, “Oh, I feel like I’ve had the flu for weeks. I think I have swine flu.” I think it would be better for them to go in and see their doctor and get tested and have a doctor tell them whether or not they have swine flu.

3. Nothing that I don’t normally do. I wash my hands all the time. That’s the main thing you can do to prevent yourself from getting swine flu. I work in a clinic, I’m around sick people all the time, and I don’t do anything differently.

Rachael VanDeBogart, medical student

1. I’m not worried either. There’s no reason to be worried about it. What does worry me is this is a strain of flu people are not vaccinated against. If that gets out of proportion, it can be potentially very dangerous, but thousands of people die every year from the flu. The other thing that worries me is it’s affecting young, healthy, people our age. I think the most common ages are 15 and 40. I don’t know if that’s accurate, but normally, when we look at the flu, it’s like babies and immune compromised people and elderly people, so it’s scary to me. But at the same time, I’m not worried. Things happen all the time, and for some reason this is being popularized in the media. It’s just like the bird flu, and what was it last year? And before that there was SARS.

2. Absolutely. There’s no question in my mind. All day today we say patients who were worried about the swine flu, and I don’t know why they weren’t worried two months ago with the regular flu. I think it’s definitely totally blown out of proportion,

3. Nothing. I’m not afraid.


Kristie Suits, administrator

1. I’m a little concerned.

2. I watch Fox News, so not really.

3. I just wash my hands more frequently. I don’t wear a mask, as you can see. I figure if it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go. You can’t worry about it.

Mike Hogue, operations manager for a non-profit organization

1. No, it’s just like any other flu.

2. Oh yeah. They don’t want another Katrina. It’s natural. People tend to overreact.

3. Nothing too much. I try not to shake hands as much. Wash my hands.

Chris Evans, student

1. I’d say, yeah, I’m worried, but not majorly. If anything was going to happen, it’s happening already.

2. They overdo it.

3. I’m still out just living my life. Maybe wash my hands more.

Richard Evans, student

1. All we can do now is wait and see.

2. Everywhere but here.

3. I still eat pork, so the answer’s no. I get to benefit when the [pork] prices drop.

Cathy Alexander

1. No, it’s just like any other flu.

2. Yes, to detract from something else, they’re doing it to get some law passed.

3. Nothing. I’ve always washed my hands after using a shopping cart or anything like that. There’s a lot of hype, and anytime there’s a lot of hype, I think it’s a one world order thing. Like there’s some law they’re trying to pass and this is just a distraction.


Dan Lopes, student

1. No, it’s just like SARS or the bird flu—it’s not that big of a problem. People just get afraid.

2. A little.

3. No.

Leah Scherschel, barista

1. No.

2. I think so.

3. I stone people when they sneeze on me. [Laughs.]

Sierra Holst, barista

1. No.

2. It gets people in a panic. We were just in Mexico, and we’re fine. I think that it was because it was in Mexico City that it spread so fast and seemed like an epidemic. But we were just in Mexico for 10 days, and we were not affected.

3. Not really.

Natalie Handler, bartender

1. No, there are flu epidemics all the time.

2. I’m devoted to not turning on the TV, reading newspapers or listening to NPR as long as people keep saying “it must be swine flu.”

3. As soon as I heard about it, I stopped paying attention. Don’t get me wrong, it sucks people are dying. I’m probably going to get it now, which would be fine.

Josh Rosales, marine

1. No. Something like 250 to 500 thousand people die of regular flu ever year, and there’s only been what, 190 cases [of swine flu] in the U.S?

2. Absolutely. They’re just trying to get our attention for a 24-hour news cycle. They’re just trying to sell a story and get us to watch CNN.

3. I got a flu shot, but other than that … The Marine Corp vaccinates us. We don’t get normal people diseases. [Laughs.]


Calina Defevaugh, senior

1. I’m not too worried about it.

2. I think some people have sensationalized it. They have been better this time. When they say the numbers of people who have had it, they say it’s not as bad as in Mexico or the symptoms aren’t as bad. They counter what they’re saying a little bit.

3. I work with kids, so I already wash my hands like crazy. I take showers after I’m with them for a long time. I’m more conscious of it, but I’m not doing anything differently than I already do.

John Lemback, sophomore

1. I feel like it’s a big deal, but since there haven’t been many cases here, I’m not very worried about it.

2. I think the media is sensationalizing the issue. As far as I know, it’s kind of like the common flu. You get worse symptoms, but it’s not really deadly.

3. I have been washing my hands more. I don’t think there’s really that much that you can do. It’s up to other people if they want to take precautions. I can’t really afford to skip class [to avoid crowds]. The only thing I’ve been doing is keeping cleaner.

David Pickus, sophomore

1. I think it’s overblown by the media, but I don’t think it’s overblown by the government, taking necessary steps. If we don’t, and it does get out of proportion, people are going to blame the government. They’ll be like, “Hey, why didn’t you take extra steps to contain it?” Early warning to contain it is better safe than sorry.

2. I don’t think the media is sensationalizing it at all. Maybe a little in that the media sensationalizes everything, they need viewers first and materials second. They need profit. If it wasn’t a big deal, people wouldn’t be caring what happens.

3. I wash my hands, but I’ve always done that. But there hasn’t been any cases around UNR, except for that one girl. This isn’t like an area that’s been swine flu infected.

Nolan Mischel, freshman

1. I think it’s a big hype. A hundred and some cases in the United States. People are getting all worried about this, but there are much bigger risks. I did a little bit of reading up on it. Swine flu isn’t especially dangerous. Experts are worried that it will mutate, but it hasn’t yet. I don’t think there’s reason to worry until it actually does.

2. Oh yeah. They are. There are bigger issues than the swine flu. They’re making out like billions of people are going to get sick, like a pandemic. It’s really just older people and young children who are getting this—people who are more susceptible to flu—who are actually dying of this. There are much bigger issues than the swine flu.

3. No. I don’t see any reason to.

Arianna Rosen, freshman

1. It scares me a little bit. But one person in Washoe County? A preschooler? Preschoolers are like—bacteria grows on their lunch tables and stuff. I’m just on campus. I’m not as scared.

2. It’s good that people are letting people know it is a risk and it is out there, but they’re making it a bigger deal.

3. Just wash my hands before I eat. Nothing more than I normally do.


Cathy Adkins, Reno

1. I’m very concerned, especially now that there’s a report in the local school district.

2. I think it’s been very good, very honest. You know, it’s like they’re keeping us updated but not panicked.

3. Washing of the hands and, you know, begin conscientious about coughing and being in public places, not standing too close, things like that.

Angela Wood, Reno

1. I take it seriously. I’m trying to educate my kinds on precautions and keeping their hands clean. But I’m nervous as it reaches the school system.

2. I think it’s been very informative but not panicky.

3. I’ve been giving my children hand sanitizer gel—you know, whenever they touch things at school, door handles, to use it after that. And I’ve told them not to use the drinking fountains.

Don Walker, Reno

1. Not. It’s overblown.

2. This is basically a non-event. Basically it’s government officials justifying their positions, people getting excited. Drama is wonderful fun.

3. No.

Wally DeVries, Sparks

1. Not at all. … It doesn’t seem to be active in this area.

2. Quite extensive. It seems to be on every channel two, three times throughout the hours. … It’s pretty extensive They let you know what to look for, symptoms, but also how to be cautious about it.

3. Cancelled a trip to Mexico.

Bruce Gilbert, Reno

1. Not really. I’m just not a person that gets sick very easily, and when I do, I’m over it quickly

2. Sensationalism.

3. No. And in fact I’ve never even taken flu shots because I would rather have it, let my body build its own immunities.


John Nelson, Reno

1. Oh, as long as I keep my hands washed and don’t sneeze on anybody, I don’t give a shit.

2. They’re making more out of it than it really is. … The mainstream media is making a big deal out of it to generate a state of fear in the public so the public will fall for the next line of nonsense.

3. I eat well.

Rhianna Woosley, Reno

1. I’m not very worried at all. The flu has been going around for a long time, so I’m not very worried. I’m going to live my life like normal.

2. I think it’s good that they’re covering it so much, just because [it reminds] everybody to take precautions.

3. I’m washing my hands, frequently.

Robert Garcia, Reno

1. Not too worried. Pretty healthy person.

2. There’s a lot of it. I think it’s bad. Kind of freaking people out.

3. No.

Norman Lipper, Charlottesville, Virginia

1. I don’t know. I’m a little concerned but not too concerned, as long as I’m not going to go to Mexico or any other places that have some big outbreaks—are there any more?

2. I guess it’s OK. I think they’re doing a good job.

3. I’m going to be cautious about who I sit next to.

Vincent Pitaro, Reno

1. Not worried. Not really my demographic. Kind of an older crowd. From everything I’ve heard it’s been kids and adults, or older people. Seems like we get one of these every other year, so I’m not worried. … I have a pretty good immune system so I never really concern myself with that stuff.

2. It’s just covered normally. It’s getting appropriate attention, I guess. I think it’s getting a little too much attention, but that’s just me.

3. Keeping my hands clean, stuff like that. Just the basic stuff. Not going to the doctor or anything like that. Watch what I do.