Swine Flu Warning Ministry Warns Heavy Metal Fans Not To Kiss or Share Beer

You can easily catch a cold in a crowd. So imagine what you might get, living cheek to jowl with 75,000 heavy metal fans for three days. Officials in one German state know this and have issued a swine flu warning to those heading for the biggest heavy metal festival in the world this week.

For 362 days a year there are around 2,000 people living in the small country town of Wacken, in deepest, rural Schleswig-Holstein, a German state at the country's northern tip. During the other three days of the year the population swells to around 75,000. This is because on those days, the biggest open-air heavy metal festival in the world -- named Wacken, after its host town -- takes place here, on around 200 hectares of paddock (that's around 270 football fields worth). Starting this Thursday, Wacken is home to tens of thousands of black-clad heavy metallers who just want to party.

But the officials of Schleswig-Holstein have expressed concern about one unwelcome guest in particular: swine flu. The state Health Ministry said on Wednesday that they had prepared "sufficient quantities of anti-viral medicine" just in case the H1N1 virus made it to Wacken and did its unholy work among festival goers.

If this happens, certain measures would need to be taken.

As ministry official's said, somewhat dryly, in a statement that they realized that "hygienic conditions were limited" at the festival. Which is why the civil servants thought they might give the heavy metallers a few useful tips.

They include: "Avoid greetings that involve close contact -- such as hugs, hand-shaking and kissing cheeks." Or: "Don't share your beer bottles." Additionally, any heavy metal fans who suddenly develop a fever or who feel sick, "should make their way to onsite medical centers as quickly as possible and follow the instructions of staff there."

No cuddling, no pushing, don't leave your beer unattended, don't exchange any fluids and do what the authorities tell you? It's enough to make a metaller want to ask: What are we actually going to do here?

And they may find one advantage in the ministry's fears. In the event the H1N1 virus isn't defeated by the touching abstinent, well-behaved heavy metal fans, the ministry has prepared several isolation wards.

The experienced festival-goer may like to consider this carefully. Has your tent been blown away, disappeared into the mud or dowsed in beer? Well then, all you need to do is cough at the nice folks in the red and white outfits a little bit -- and, faster than you can say "H1N1," you'll have a nice dry, warm bed.

cis -- with wires
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