Swine flu and tech life

large_flumaskUnless you have been living under a rock for the last two days, you should know that the world is being invaded by yet another health emergency – swine flu.

From CDC:

How common is swine flu infection in humans?
In the past, CDC received reports of approximately one human swine influenza virus infection every one to two years in the U.S., but from December 2005 through February 2009, 12 cases of human infection with swine influenza have been reported.

What are the symptoms of swine flu in humans?
The symptoms of swine flu in people are expected to be similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Can people catch swine flu from eating pork?
No. Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food. You can not get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160°F kills the swine flu virus as it does other bacteria and viruses.

Nonetheless, most people these days are not going to go to the CDC website to find information on this crisis.

From CNN:

Of the swine flu news on Twitter, Tompkins said, “Bad news always travels faster than good news. I’m sure that was true in smoke signal days.”

Unofficial swine flu information on Twitter may lead people to unwise decisions, said Evgeny Morozov, a fellow at the Open Society Institute and a blogger on ForeignPolicy.com.

For example, some Twitter users told their followers to stop eating pork, he said. Health officials have not advised that precaution. Read about how the virus is transmitted

Morozov said there’s incentive for Twitter users to post whatever is on their mind because it helps them grow their online audiences.

But in an emergency, that tendency means people write about their own fears of symptoms and widespread deaths, which can create an uninformed hysteria, he said.

Coincidentally, I was having a conversation with someone here at the 2009 Nonprofit Technology Conference about whether or not cities around the United States will become ghost towns, just like Mexico City in light of the illness. We happen to be leaving a workshop on cloud computing, and in discussing this issue, inspite of a declared national emergency which may require many Americans to stay home, they would still be able to work virtually.

While cloud computing is the hot thing for employees who like telecommuting, are virtual offices a good thing for public health?

It has been proven that telecommuters are less likely to take sick days and be more productive due to good health, but there are also other benefits of cloud computing I learn about in the workshop that are also good for the employer.

What is good about Cloud Computing:

• No infrastructure: any web browser get you access
• Open: Internet standards and web services allow you to “mash” up clouds
• Quick Start: autonomic provisioning…try before your buy
• It costs less
• Flexibility: scale up and down to your organization’s needs; spend more time working on the mission of the organization
• Choice: you choose what apps and services you need as opposed to a vender deciding
• Capacity: skills and capacity needed are close to your mission
• Security: higher investment in state of the art security
• Upgrade: not a project, but rather automated behind the scenes
• Ongoing investment

What is bad (perceived) about Cloud Computing

• Worries about what happens to information after a vendor goes out of business
• Security of business information online
• No personal interaction with coworkers; no social interaction

If President Obama is serious about tech innovation while dealing with the growing number of health outbreaks, there would be no surprise if he were to ask Americans to think more seriously about working in the “clouds.”

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