Don't let the Swine Win!: Enecomp 2009, Curitiba, Brazil - September 4-8, 2009


Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

Aug 20, 2009 GMT
Jon maddog Hall

I love going to student events. Particularly well-conceived events organized by students and run by students. Of course events run for business people and governments are important too, and I like it when they are all mutually compatible.

Therefore it distresses me that the current hysteria around H1N1, also known as "Swine Flu" is jeopardizing the hard work done by students in Curitiba, Brazil for a conference that otherwise would be considered "world class".

Nine hour hands-on "mini-courses" on topics like Python, PHP, shell scripting, Mono/C# taught in classrooms of 20 computers each, with six-hour mini-courses on PostgreSQL, Drupal, Debian, GIMP and Ruby.

In the conference itself there will be both national and international speakers giving talks and panels.

The cost structure of the event is very low, allowing students to attend the basic conference for a very low fee (to help cover costs), and the event even provides low-cost housing and food for students who have to travel.

The student conference organizers were expecting 1000 high school and college age students, but because of the flu they are anticipating only half that number will show up. While this is still a good sized conference, it is a shame that an opportunity for FOSS students to meet with each other personally, share ideas, and get the feeling of "community" may be missed because of a germ.

So here are my thoughts on the issue of Swine Flu and this conference:

Hundreds of thousands of people die world-wide during a normal flu season.

In the United States, a country of 307,000,000 people (more or less) there have been 7,511 Hospitalized cases and 477 deaths due to H1N1.

In a normal flu season 36,000 people in the United States die to flu-related complications, with 200,000 people hospitalized. To be fair, authorities are cautious because this is a new strain of flu, and they do not know everything about it yet.

In 1999 there were 3385 deaths in the United States due to guns just in the age group of 0-19, with 1609 deaths in the age group of 18-19. My country is obviously in a "Gun epidemic", yet we do not seem to have a lot of headlines on that, and people have not been staying away from conferences because of the extreme danger of being shot.

I am not saying that people should not be cautious about this outbreak of H1N1, and particularly until a vaccine has been distributed, but here are some things we can all do to lower the risks of attending a conference or regional event.

If you feel sick stay home, particularly if you have a high fever. That is a simple concept, right?

If you have other symptoms including cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, runny or stuffy nose, chills, fatigue, diarrhea and vomiting.....please just stay home, as I am sure people are really not going to be happy with you around. This would be true with our without "Swine Flu".

If you develop these symptoms while at the conference, please leave. Another simple concept. Yes, I know you paid to be there, but you are going to be miserable and so are all the people around you. Better to leave, get home, get to bed and recover quickly than infect people with whatever you have.

Bring inexpensive disinfectants with you. Alcohol in gel state, alcohol swabs, chlorine bleach and chlorine swabs are all effective (and inexpensive) disinfectants against the virus. Run out? The local pharmacy can sell you some more. In fact, the conference organizers for the Curitiba student's conference are planning to provide these disinfectants at the conference, but attendees should bring some from home too!

Wash your hands often with soap and hot water, particularly after you have been in contact with lots of people. You will see me washing my hands a lot more often during this "flu season" than I normally do (and I am a pretty clean person) and I will carry my own little batch of swabs with me.

I will also offer to shake your hand and put my arm around your shoulder, as I did with the 3000 people at Campus Party Colombia three or so weeks ago. Every so often you will see me wipe my hands, not because I think you have the flu, but to protect you and everyone else whose hand I shake.

When I started traveling, I went to countries that my government said were "unsafe". Israel, Colombia, China, Russia and Vietnam. My country did not say I *could* not go there, they just warned me about certain dangers such as terrorists, Yellow Fever and other things for which I got vaccinations or would carefully watch for "symptoms" of danger, including not drinking non-potable water.

Just as I refused to automatically stay away from some countries because there was "terrorist activity" (human or germ-based), I refuse to automatically stay away because of "Swine Flu". I weigh the circumstances, take precautions and make an informed decision.

The conference organizers have also been talking to their State Government about the issue, and the government has told them that there is no reason to cancel the conference. The weather has been dry and sunny, eliminating a lot of the virus germs and reducing the number of cases. The organizers are also monitoring the state government's web site on this:

If we stay away because of terrorism, then the terrorists have won. If we stay away because of a possibility of Swine flu, then the Swine have won.


P.S. Of course, I will also say that the views and opinions of this author are his responsibility alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Linux New Media.


  • Swine Flu

    Maddog absolutely right.
    By almeasn take care but lets stop the Swine Flu pandemic becoming a Fear of Swine Flu panic
comments powered by Disqus
Subscribe to our Linux Newsletters
Find Linux and Open Source Jobs
Subscribe to our ADMIN Newsletters

Support Our Work

Linux Magazine content is made possible with support from readers like you. Please consider contributing when you’ve found an article to be beneficial.

Learn More