It was just a matter of time in South Korea when the Swine Flu paranoia reached a new high prompting authorities to raise the alert status to a “red level” the highest level.


There’s been at least one or two articles a day in the Korea Times—the newspaper that I read daily—about Swine Flu whether it is a person succumbing to the flu or worries that the flu will spread when the weather turns colder (it got really cold here yesterday, down to the lower 20’s, but the temperature was back up in the low 60’s today).


There have been 42 deaths attributed to H1N1, but of these, only one person, a 42-year-old-man died without suffering any other serious ailments.


Some reports say that over 8,800 people a day or being diagnosed with the flu—up from 4,400 the previous week; however, the paranoia has caused some misdiagnoses. One of the office staff at my school was misdiagnosed with H1N1 and sent home for a week.


People are scared to go anywhere. According to an article in the Korea Times yesterday, “airlines, rail, hotels and amusement parks are just some of the businesses hammered by the growing number of people canceling their visits” and even the fear of contracting the flu is “resulting in empty tables at neighborhood restaurants and pubs.”


This morning when I went to school, only one of the office staff was there (there are usually five) as well as the student who is in charge of the copy center. Nonetheless, I had six out of seven students in my adult conversation class.


Much of the paranoia and excessive fear can be attributed to the media that has been reporting, not to mention painting a dismal picture of the spread of H1N1 in Korea. It has got a lot of people nervous and even someone with the symptoms of a common cold has them running to the doctor. Almost everyone you see on the streets is wearing a mask over their mouths and noses; Walt Disney and Hello Kitty masks are a big hit with the youngsters and even some of my university students.


I wonder what it is like in other countries and what people are doing to cope with it as well as what they might think of the H1N1 paranoia here in Korea. Supposedly, it has become much more serious in Asia than in other countries.