CNN Commentary: ‘Why swine flu scares us’

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Commentary: Why swine flu scares us

By Bob Greene, CNN Contributor

Take a stroll through the aisles of one of the big national chain-pharmacy stores: Walgreens, or CVS, or Rite Aid.

You probably have done exactly that recently — paying a visit to one of the big drugstores is something Americans do almost by rote any time we’re feeling a little under the weather

This time, though, pay special attention to the array of medications that are on the shelves. Taking a close look at them will provide a lesson of sorts about why the swine flu emergency has caught most of us up short.

The multiplicity of medicines available for purchase at American drugstores is displayed with all the color, variety and showmanship of a carnival midway. There’s such a dizzying assortment, offered to us in so many expertly marketed permutations — if the medicines in the aisles weren’t intended for purchasers who are, by definition, feeling lousy, the drugstore displays would feel almost cheerful.

The unspoken message in those aisles is: Something wrong with your health? No problem. We’ve got you covered. (…)

We have become so used to our stocked-to-the-bursting-point mega-drugstores that we have come to regard the concept of purchase-on-impulse health cures as something close to a right. And that’s just the over-the-counter items; the potent, prescription-only items presided over by the pharmacists offer the promise of even more muscular medical magic. (…)

So when the first news of the swine flu outbreak, and of its potential implications, arrived, it didn’t quite fully register. A possible pandemic? In a world as scientifically and technologically advanced as ours? Aren’t we supposed to be able to keep such catastrophes at bay?

Read the rest of this commentary here.

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