30 April 2009

Thoughts on Swine Flu

As I write this, the latest CNN breaking news says that a school in Fort Worth, Texas in the US has been shut down as precautionary measure to stop the spread of swine flu. The World Health Organization has also raised the pandemic alert level to 5, the second highest alert level for pandemics. Earlier, in his press conference for his first 100 days as US President, Obama supported this move of closing down schools in order to control the problem.

Here are some more things I'd like to share:

1. This swine flu is new. It's always bad news when there is a new infection. No one is ready for it. The real origins of this flu are still unknown; what is known is that pigs have acted as a mixing cauldron for its birth. Its parents are human influenza, avian influenza, and two separate strains of swine influenza.

from the CDC

2. It is a virus. A type of influenza virus, to be more specific. The official term is swine influenza virus (SIV). It passes from human to human very easily, hence explaining its quick spread. When it infects humans, there are only two possible outcomes: recovery or a fatal outcome. It all depends on how strong and how quick our respective immunities respond. The assumption is, the healthier you are, the more likely you'll recover when you get infected.

from the CDC

3. You can NOT catch swine flu by eating pork. You might catch it if you spend your days in close contact with real pigs in hog farms. So, you might still find it enticing to follow the recommendations of celebrity TV chef Anthony Bourdain and TIME magazine, that the Philippines' Cebu Lechon is the best pig in Asia. Just don't eat too much, especially if your doctor is trying to bring your cholesterol down.

Frontpage Photo from a major Mexican newspaper

4. How to protect yourself --- wash your hands frequently. Don't kiss anymore like the couple above. Cover your mouth when you sneeze. Do not spit anywhere or spread any of your secretions on the streets outside (believe me, I see this everyday in Manila streets). To quote President Obama:
"...keep your hands washed; cover your mouth when you cough; stay home from work if you're sick; and keep your children home from school if they're sick."
You can also add eating on time, sleeping 8 hours every night, and exercising regularly. These will all boost the immunity.

from the CDC

5. Antivirals - there are people I know who have been on a buying spree of anti-flu medications like Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir) in the hope of protecting themselves. Well, guess what? Reports have shown that most of the people infected with the swine flu virus make a full recovery without requiring medical attention or antiviral drugs. I say, spend your money wisely.

In addition to the 91 cases in the US, WHO reports that Mexico has 26 confirmed human cases of infection including 7 deaths, and the following countries have reported laboratory confirmed cases with no deaths - Austria (1), Canada (13), Germany (3), Israel (2), New Zealand (3), Spain (4) and the United Kingdom (5), bring the total to 148 cases worldwide.

6. Be updated with the latest information -- know the current news on the swine flu spread. Have there been any evacuations done in your area? Watch TV and listen to radio reports, or surf the internet to know the latest. In problems like these, it always pays to be informed.

from the CDC

7. What's in a name? Apparently a lot. Pork producers and hog raisers feel that their industry is gravely affected by the 'swine flu' term, and are fiercely lobbying that people start calling the current epidemic as H1N1 or influenza A. After all, they reason out, you don't get ill because you ate infected pork (see # 3). President Obama and the US Secretary of Agriculture agree, but up until now, CNN, the New York Times, and even the CDC widget in the upper right hand corner of this blog has not stopped calling it, SWINE FLU. I say, there's nothing wrong with calling it swine flu. I would like to think more people out there are informed enough that they can't get swine flu from eating pork. [updated 2 May 2009]

8. Swine Flu in Asia - a 51-year old South Korean nun and a 25-year old Mexican who transited through Shanghai in Hong Kong developed a fever after arriving in the territory Thursday afternoon, are Asia's first 2 cases. I pray it does not spread anymore. [updated 2 May 2009]

9. Don't Panic - I don't think it's the end of the world yet. Stay informed and stay healthy. Wash hands frequently and cover your mouths and noses when you cough or sneeze or when somebody near you coughs and sneezes. If they can't do it, protect yourself.

10. See Your Doctor - or go to the nearest hospital when you feel that your flu isn't resolving the normal way it should.

blog comments powered by Disqus