There is panic in the air! The swine flu has arrived. The naysayers say not to worry, but the media apparently missed that memo. You can hardly turn on your radio or TV without hearing another doomsday scenario. And people are scared, and perhaps rightfully so.

I would like to provide another side to the discussion, and even a lesson in our service to G‑d that we can derive from this health concern. But first a disclaimer: I don't work for the CDC, nor do I have a degree in public health matters. But I like to listen and learn.

Listening to a radio show yesterday, I heard a guest by the name of Michael Fumento. He is an author, journalist, photographer and attorney specializing in science and health issues.

To counter the growing panic, he pointed out that "this virus currently has infected about forty or so, and killed no one in the U.S. [still true at the time of this writing]. The seasonal flu, on the other hand, infects between 28 and 56 million a year, hospitalizes 100,000 a year, and kills 36,000 a year, according to the CDC."

Furthermore, he said that in 1976, the last time the swine virus reared its head, there was a rush to create a vaccine. "While thousands were infected by the virus, only one person died directly as a result. Meanwhile, a few hundred died or got very sick and even paralyzed as a result of the defective vaccine."

Then he said something that really caught my attention. "There is a school in Queens that closed and sent all the kids home since a couple hundred students were displaying symptoms of the flu. Did they have the flu? Maybe three or four did; maybe none did."

What did happen is what he called "mass psychogenic illness." This is when groups of people (such as a whole class of students or office-full of workers) start feeling sick at the same time, even though there is no physical reason for them to be sick.

Wow, can you imagine the power of the psyche? Hundreds of kids getting sick, really feeling sick, even though there is absolutely nothing wrong with them!

But what this really shows us is the power of the environment. If it can impact us in such a powerful way on the physical front, how much more so must this be true on the spiritual front!

In fact, Jewish teachings talk about the importance of making a svivah, a good and healthy environment in order to grow spiritually. If we surround ourselves with friends who have values that negate spiritual growth, or if we overly expose ourselves to "Hollywood Values," we put ourselves at increased risk of getting spiritually sick. Despite our best intentions, we take on a world view that negates G‑d-consciousness.

And what is Mr. Fumento's recommendation for avoiding infection? The same thing we do to avoid infection by seasonal flu: Bolster our immune system.

Spiritually it is the same. If we keep ourselves moored in holiness, and we regularly take the vitamins of Torah study and mitzvot, we are, to a large degree, shielded from the temptations that try to bring us down.

May we see the speedy end to the current scare.

Disclaimer #2: The story is still unfolding. I am writing to inspire, not to claim any medical details as fact. I may be wrong about the flu, but I am not wrong about the lesson.