From SARS to swine: A decade of health scares

By Sara Story - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - As the countdown to midnight begins, we are not just ringing in a new year, but a new decade. Looking back at the past 10 years, health scares have caused widespread panic in our communities. Some proved to be nonexistent, while others were extremely dangerous.

Ten years past Y2K, it is H1H1 that plagues the nation.

"Hand sanitizer everywhere [and] signs really careful [and] cautious," said Kayla McGovern, a Tyler resident. "Sneeze into your shoulder."

Declared a national emergency in October, H1N1 is new and still a concern.

"You hear all this and you think, 'OH my gosh! It is worse than the regular flu...they are going to grow an extra head or something!'" said Carol McKinney, a Tyler resident.

"We are used to the seasonal flu," explained George Roberts, the Director of Northeast Texas Public Health District. "We aren't used to H1N1. It affects a younger population rather than an older population."

Winding the clock back a few years we find other novel viruses that were threatening to infect us all. There was SARS, Bird Flu, and don't forget about West Nile.

"When it initially hit the United States, it was a big splash," said Shawn Markmann, Director of Tyler Animal and Mosquito Control. "As it moved west across the U.S., I think the noise died down a little bit more and now you hardly ever hear about it."

Shying away from viruses, but setting off an alarm among parents in 2007 was lead paint on toys.

"We started importing lots of products from around the world and lead paint started showing up on lots of those toys," explained Brenda Elrod, the Environmental Health Director with the Northeast Texas Public Health District.

And, panic spread among teachers.

"They might actually die from that...can you imagine having to call a parent at home and say while your child was here at school he got lead poisoning?" said Linda Jamison, a Tyler resident, mother and former school teacher.

While watching for contaminated toys, people were fearful of envelopes, tainted by a bacteria called Anthrax.

"People just didn't know anything about it, and they assumed that if you open up a letter a puff of cloud is going to come out, and everybody is going to fall down dead," said Jeremy Dengler, a Tyler resident.

According to the experts, the past may be a sign of what the future holds. Remember the peanut butter scare?

"Food safety is going to be on the top of the list with a lot of the agencies because they are looking at those foods from the farm to the fork," said Elrod.

As this decade comes to an end, there is hope for less fears and more cheers in the years to come. Have a happy and healthy 2010.

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