Swine Flu Town Hall Held Tonight; Sick People Unwelcome

Is now the best time to corral the neighbors?

CHICAGO -- Just as the World Health Organization on Wednesday raised their alert level one notch short of a full worldwide pandemic, a media alert from Cook County President Todd Stroger came into our newsroom announcing a "Town Hall Meeting" Wednesday evening to "address concerns about swine flu" and county services.

Now, we don't mean to single Stroger out.  After all, the University of Notre Dame on Tuesday held a press conference about a confirmed case of swine flu there, but it begged us to ask:  is now the best time to corral the neighbors in one room, especially on a day when there are nine "probable" cases of the disease in the area?

We can think other ways to solicit questions, get them answered and share information, but what do we know?

Indeed, even President Barack Obama got together with citizens en masse during a town hall meeting in Arnold, MO. to mark his 100th day in office, though swine flu was briefly addressed.

Many accuse the media of blowing the swine flu story out of proportion.  After all, an average of 36,000 people in the United States reportedly die each year from influenza.  So far, swine flu has claimed fewer than 200 lives. 

Others, however, recognize that this strain of flu is new, unfamiliar, and spreading quickly.

Still, if you're feeling brave, Wednesday evening's town hall meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m. at Daley College's first floor theater, located at 7500 S. Pulaski, in Chicago.Officials from the Cook County Department of Public Health, the Cook County Health & Hospitals System, and the Cook County Emergency Management Agency will be on hand, as well as bureau chiefs and department heads from other County agencies.
"We know that swine flu is on everyone’s mind right now, so I’ve asked staff with medical expertise about this strain of influenza and strategies to prevent and treat it to come tonight to answer questions," said President Stroger. "It’s critical to hear directly from local residents about their concerns, and get good information in their hands that empowers them to get the help they need from our agencies."

The general public will be invited to ask questions of County officials from the floor.  People who aren't feeling well aren't invited, the release did not say.

Map of Swine Flu Cases Worldwide

View H1N1 Swine Flu in a larger map
Purple marker is confirmed or probable case
Pink marker is suspect
Yellow marker is negative
Fatal cases have no dot
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