Swine flu hysteria: One family falsely implicated in spread


Everyone is completely swine flu crazy. Who has it? Who might have it? Do I have it? Is the world going to end?

As health officials try to keep the details about individuals with the H1N1 virus private, the media and everyone living near the confirmed cases can't seem to stop themselves from becoming personal detectives on a search for the person to blame.

But what happens when they get the wrong person? Your life becomes a nightmare. When Rocori Middle School student Keisha Baumgarten, 13, was home sick Monday and Tuesday after a family trip to Mexico a couple weeks ago, the rumor mill started and pretty soon all of Cold Spring was convinced they knew who was Minnesota's first swine flu case.

Unfortunately they had it all wrong.

The St. Cloud Times profiles one family desperately trying to fight back against rumors that their daughter is sick with the virus.

Joel and Kim Baumgarten have tried to tamp down the rumors with e-mails to family and co-workers. Joel is an assistant principal at Rocori High School and Kim is a teacher at St. Boniface.

They have had television and print reporters at their door and on their phone over the past two days. Friends and acquaintances have been wishing them the best and others incorrectly have been spreading the word that Keisha is the one with the influenza.

"People were just saying things that are false," Joel Baumgarten said.

The family's situation makes the rumors too easy to spread. They were in Mexico from April 9-13 and Keisha missed school Monday and Tuesday. She visited the doctor twice, but she has tested negative for H1N1 novel influenza virus.

And to top it off, Keisha's parents think she might have contributed to the rumors by texting friends. They have since taken away her phone.

Does anyone else think this is a tad silly? Have we gone completely flu-crazy?