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Can mind-over-matter effect make a big difference in a bird flu crisis?

ABC is really packing a wallop on viewers this week as far as fear, anxiety and excitement are concerned.

On Monday night the anxiety and excitement was all about illusionist and magician David Blaine’s death-defying stunt, and on Tuesday night the fear was all about the movie, Fatal Contact, The Bird Flu in America.

I wondered where TV movie producers would take us with this movie since it is predicted that this disease will surely reach us in the very near future.

Producers said the movie is fiction, but to me, previews may leave people with feelings of anxiety and hopelessness if an outbreak does come to America.

In the past, news reports have given advice about what to stock up on and to prepare for, describing how this disease is different from any other flu outbreak and reporting how it will be contracted from other people flying in from other countries and states. One of the things in our favor is that this flu has been reported to not be a major problem in passing from one person to another.

However, in a preview of the movie, people were shown in panic situations, wearing masks and doctors saying that there is not enough vaccine to stop the spread of it.

If you viewed the movie, this morning you will have the chance to be the judge if producing it was a good decision. The producers of the movie said at least it will get people thinking and to begin preparing themselves for the bird flu if it does arrive.

On Tuesday morning David Blaine’s failed attempt to free himself from what people had called his eight-foot human fish bowl, and the bird flu movie were the two major topics of conversation on ABC Good Morning America show.

By Monday night, Blaine had spent seven days and 177 hours in the bowl that was filled with 2,000 gallons of salt water outside of the Lincoln Center in New York City. His attempt to hold his breath for nine minutes to free himself from handcuffs and chains failed after he had taken one long gasp of breath before putting his head back in the bowl. When divers saw that he was in trouble and losing consciousness, they pulled him out of the bowl at 7:08 minutes which was short of the 8:58 record previously set by another stuntman. He felt that he had failed his supporters but the salt water had taken a toll on his body.

Before it began, Blaine said he had never felt as much pain before a major stunt as he was feeling on Monday. He also said that this stunt would be the most monumental challenge of his life.

Other death defying challenges have included the following: in 1999 he buried himself alive for seven days; in 2000 he was frozen in a block of ice for 61 hours; in 2002, he perched himself 90 feet in the air on top of a tall narrow beam; and for 44 days in London, he went without food while sitting high above the city in a box.

After he was pulled out of the bowl, Blaine showed his hands and feet to viewers. They were all ghostly white and shriveled. He said they had no feeling. However, anchormen reporting the incident and doctors thought that it was incredible and almost impossible the way he walked to reporters to give thanks to his supporters. Doctors reported that he also has suffered some liver damage but Blaine said that he has always depended on the adrenaline rush at the time of his escapes to cause his body functions to return to normal.

Blaine said that it always ends up being about the mental. I think that anyone doing stunts like these needs mental help but I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt and call it a mind-over-matter effect.

Wouldn’t it be a blessing if we could practice this mind over matter effect if an epidemic of the bird flu does occur? That effect would be that we wouldn’t let too many negative thoughts of this disease cloud our minds with hopelessness and that we would be highly prepared for the worst. Then in a way, if it did come to America, it wouldn’t even matter.

Wall is a former News-Herald reporter and regular contributor to the Town Square Page.