Why? Because we have the flu. Swine flu or H1N1 to be exact. It is a pretty nasty bug. Worldwide it has already killed more than 700 people and here in Britain the death toll stands at around 30.
Panic, though, is spreading faster than the disease with fears running high - and stocks of drugs running low in equal measure. Here in London suspicion of fellow tube or bus passengers has not been as acute since the bombings of 2005. The mere hint of a sniffle or audible cough has people moving carriages whilst tutting and shaking their heads disapprovingly. There is a constant wringing and washing of hands, and sales of anti-bacterial wipes have gone through the roof. Doctors are increasingly unable to cope with complaining patients and warnings are coming out daily about how our health service is going to collapse under the stain of so many sick come the damp winter months.
The main thing that is missing here though is a sense of proportion. Normal seasonal flu viruses (which mutate every year) kill between a quarter and half a million people worldwide every 12 months, and yet our countries don't collectively dive into panic every time there is a cold snap. This new flu should be taken seriously, of course, but life should also be allowed to be lived without fear and constant dread.
Sadly, ten times as many people will be killed on our roads this year than from swine flu but no one has stopped driving their car. One thing is for sure, as soon as this monster is dead another one will be along to hide under our beds and breathe nightmares into our days. Living in constant fear is not an option.
By Petrie Hosken