The thermometers that the government issued to me came out of the office drawers last Thursday, the last day of March 2009 where it has languished for over 5 years. Yeah, that tells you how often I clean out my office drawers. Who was it that Shakespeare caused to say, "Beware, the ides of March?" This time, it may be 45 days late, but I was still apprehensive. Its a digital thermometer, stupid, and I wondered if it worked any more - the battery, i.e. At these times, you see the virtue of alcohol or mercury thermometers. These would still do their magic even if you have left them in the drawer for 10 years or more.
I pressed the button and a beep sounded. Ahhh...it is alive! And I took my temperature - 36.7 celsius. That's good. I wasn't running a fever, so that meant that I wouldn't be escorted off the office premises. All these bring back memories, 6 years ago, to be exact, when the SARs virus caused so much consternation and fear, yes, fear. This time around, we knew exactly what to do. No need to refer to office manuals nor have office briefings. Just say the word, which the authorities, from the government down to the private enterprise, and we went about our temperature taking and recording like second nature. Perhaps this is one of those things that will characterise the first decade of the 21st Century - the terror of killer viruses (besides the terror wreaked by Islamist terrorist). Or perhaps it can just be shortened to terror, which is ironic.
The first decade of the 21st Century has been relatively peaceful. There have not been wars between nations (Iraq and Afghanistan do not count), as in the 20th Century, yet we live in times where we have had to guard ourselves and our nations from unseen enemies, who will strike willy and nilly, bringing down the weak and the strong, the young and the old, the rich and the poor, suddenly and indiscriminately. So also this Swine Fever (somehow its easier to say that Influenza A (H1N1)). It has brought down more than 170 people in Mexico, where it reportedly originated, as well as a 2-month old Mexican child in the US. Thus far, Singapore is still H1N1-free, but we wonder for how long. So you can't blame people for raiding the stores for those masks, which is now scarcely available.
How long will this last? It is anyone's guess. Until the vaccine comes along in half a year's time? Perhaps. But then, we are reminded that there are large quantities of stockpiled Tamiflu in Singapore, which has proven effective against this virus. Maybe that, and the fact that we have gone through this before, has given us a quiet confidence that we will lick this sucker in time. Err...wrong use of word, let me rephrase. We will stamp out this virus if and when it appears amongst us, make no mistake about it. But of course, the priority is to prevent this sucker from stepping onto our shores.