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The Secret Weapon To Beat SARS Is In Your Head
by: David Leonhardt
Just when you thought you had all the fun you could possibly handle with Saddam Hussein, North Korea, Al Quaeda and the winter that just won't die, along comes SARS – severe-acute respiratory syndrome.
I recently fielded a call on this subject from one of my biggest fans: "You moron. What do you mean we can fight SARS with our heads? Can't you see? We are all going to die. Die. Die, I tell you."
"Please, mother. Don't panic. Panicking will only make it worse."
"What do you mean make it worse? How can it be any worse? People are dying all over the place. It's all over the news. Every day. This is just horrible."
"So far, out of six billion people on earth, only about a hundred have died. Most of those are on the other side of the planet. That's not good for them, but the risk for us is way smaller than it seems."
"Then why does it seem like it's everywhere? Why won't the TV people stop talking about it?"
"Well, the TV people have all sworn a secret oath. They are to maintain high professional standards, report the news as objectively as possible and do whatever is necessary to scare people to death. See? It's simple."
"I don't know ..."
"Sure, mother. Why do you think that if somebody walks into a McDonald's and blows away a table of nuns, it makes the headlines all over the country, but when 500 thousand people walk into McDonald's and order Big Macs that same day, there's not a peep out of the media."
"I don't know dear."
"Why do you think we always hear about airplanes crashing to the ground, but never about airplanes taking off safely? Three hours late, mind you, but safely nonetheless."
"And why do you think that the media focus on the handful of politicians involved in bribery, corruption, sex, violence, nepotism, pick-pocketing, slander, lying, demagoguery and falsifying their resumes, when they could probably find a handful of upstanding, honest politicians?"
"OK, dear. Perhaps you are right. Perhaps the media is blowing this politician thing out of proportion. But what about SARS?"
"SARS is simple. We all fight disease best when we are less stressed. So everybody should take a vacation and relax on a Mexican beach. Then SARS would be defeated."
"But dear, do you really think six billion of us can fit onto a Mexican beach?"
"I suppose not. Which means we must take other measures to avoid stress. We can start by avoiding stressful situations, such as malicious colleagues, cantankerous in-laws and violent movies."
"OK, I'm taking notes."
"Make sure you get plenty of sleep."
"Why? Does SARS leave people alone while they sleep?"
"No, but well-rested people fight off diseases better than worn-down, tired people."
"OK, what else?"
"Keep fit. Eat nutritious meals and get plenty of exercise."
"But won't exercise just wear me down? Then I'll be a sitting duck for disease."
"Don't exercise THAT much. Just enough to keep fit. And pray.
"I can do that."
"And don't pick on people with slanted eyes. Believe it or not, people are keeping clear of anybody who looks Chinese. I know many people of Chinese ancestry who have never even been to China. I know people born in China who have not been there for years. Why avoid people based on their ancestry, when SARS began just a few months ago?"
"I make decisions based on ancestry all the time, dear."
"You do, mother?"
"Sure, why do you think I am your biggest fan?"
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