BLARING headlines about the potentially deadly swine flu have scared us into washing our hands compulsively and reaching for the hand sanitizers.

We've been through this panic before, with SARS and the bird-flu epidemic and then the pet-food scare that put our cats and dogs at risk. It's the crisis du jour.

But I am so not in the mood this time around. I mean, isn't it bad enough to be worrying about losing our jobs and now we have to be afraid of catching swine flu?

With the kind of glorious weather we've been enjoying, wouldn't it be nice to just ignore this potential pandemic? "Swine flu hits the states," CNN's Roland Martin announced on Facebook yesterday afternoon. "Are you scared?"

Heck, yeah, I'm scared.

But, honestly, it's not just the swine flu. There are all kinds of things creeping me out. I am never going to look at an ad on Craigslist the same way again. Accused Craigslist killer Philip Markoff gives me the willies.

It's one thing to know there are sociopaths prowling for victims online, but it's another thing to see the face of a man accused of being one and for it be someone as seemingly innocuous as Markoff. Much has been made about how clean-cut the 22-year-old medical student looks.

I feel for the fiancee he was supposed to marry this summer. Megan McAllister must be in hell about now, trying to figure how she missed the signs that the man she was engaged to had been living a double life. Police say they found a gun in a hollowed-out textbook and other evidence linking him to the murder of a New York masseuse, as well as two other alleged assaults of victims he reportedly met on Craigslist.

Markoff has reportedly advised family members to forget about him and warned them that more damaging information was about to be released. NBC's "Today" show reported yesterday that he'd made sexual overtures to males he'd met online, as well as to transexuals.

And speaking of cyberterror, on Friday Philly's infamous rapist, Jeffrey J. Marsalis, was convicted of yet another sexual assault, this time in Idaho. For the record, this pervert also was one of those well-scrubbed types who posed as a doctor or an astronaut and who told women he had CIA connections.

Marsalis' modus operandi was to slip something in the drink of his victims and then sexually assault them. He has two convictions in Philadelphia and now one in Idaho. He previously had faced charges of raping 10 women but was acquitted.

Cases like these make me fear for all the women I know who are online, hoping to meet "The One."

Meanwhile, Europe has warned its citizens about traveling to the United States. And we've been warned not to go to Mexico.

Oops, time to wash my hands again.

If we do wind up catching swine flu, those who've already lost their jobs should have plenty of time to recuperate.

But I'd suggest not turning on the TV while you're trying to get better. "Sweeps" just started, the period when television ratings are measured to determine future advertising rates, and you know what that means - lots of terror on the nightly news.

Blame the pigs. *