Swine Flu

What have we done to our world? Swine flu! How has a virus known to affect pigs exclusively translated to us? Have we suddenly become pigs? Or have the pigs embraced the attributes of humanity. Recent outbreak of this virus is creating havoc in many cities in India, especially for parents concerned about the safety of their children. Many schools have been closed fearing the spread of infection among its students.

I’m not a doctor but from what I have read in the newspapers, this thing is curable, if diagnosed in time. Every day the government is assuring people that it has more than enough stock of medicines to combat this problem. But the irony is that despite the hype, normal flu kills more than five hundred people a day! In India alone! The only difference is that no one is talking about normal flu and no one has done any compilation of statistics for it in India. Globally, common flu kills five hundred thousand people every year as compared to about twelve hundred people who have died around the world of swine flu this year.

People are scared. And rightfully so since the worst affected are the kids. The underlying logic is that kids come together at school and could potentially create a epidemic through contact with other kids. Now many state governments are closing off schools in the hopes of curtailing the spread of the virus any further. One of the main research bodies for infectious diseases in the world is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US. For the H1N1 swine flu virus, the CDC has noted that most infections continue to be mild – similar to seasonal flu – and recovery is extremely quick. The majority of people infected with the virus make a full recovery without requiring medical attention or antiviral drugs. In fact, we may be making the problem worse by collecting way too many sick people or people with weakened immunity due to normal flu, in government medical facilities. These sick and scared people are coming in contact with all kinds of infections and I am sure that can’t be good.

The swine flu virus normally spreads like any other influenza virus, i.e. from coughs and sneezes or by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching the nose or mouth. Symptoms are similar to those of normal flu, and may include fever, sneezes, sore throat, coughs, headache, and muscle or joint pains. Usually these symptoms can last up to a week. The CDC also notes that most cases worldwide have been mild so far and most hospitalizations and deaths have been of persons that also had underlying conditions such as asthma, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, or a weakened immune system.

Swine flu is treatable. The government has repeatedly assured people that it has more than enough stock of Tamiflu (oseltamivir) or Relenza (zanamivir) for the treatment and/or prevention of infection. These are the drugs recommended by the CDC for swine flu. There are also many competent bodies working around the world to develop a vaccine for this virus and hopefully by the end of this year or beginning of next, we will have a vaccine that will inoculate people against H1N1.

I think the main problem here in India is the usual one. Our irresponsible media has sensationalized the problem. They are responsible for creating a panic when logical concerted efforts can curb this problem without hassles. But then who will watch their news channels?

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