Wednesday, August 12

Fact or Fiction?

Ok that's it. All limits crossed. I've had enough of this hullaballoo.

I'd thought I wouldn’t write about the swine flu pandemic, coz I expected it to die down within a few days just like other media-hyped “no cure”, “deadly” diseases and infections. Seems like I’ll have to change my mind, coz this virus pledges to hang around for a bit longer than usual… And what with people dying and all, it's really becoming one helluva chaotic situation... Of course, nobody's paying heed to the fact that people die of malaria and AIDS and other diseases almost everyday... Just coz it's new and "different"...

So exactly, what IS this swine flu business? The
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
which boasts of being “your online source for credible health information” defines H1N1 (referred to as “swine flu” early on) as a new influenza virus causing illness in people. (I know this ain’t too helpful, but hold on. I’ll get there shortly.)

This contagious virus, first detected in people in the United States in April 2009, was originally referred to as “swine flu” because laboratory testing showed that many of the genes in it were similar to influenza viruses normally occurring in pigs (swine) in North America. However, Novel H1N1 viruses are not spread by food; you cannot get infected with novel HIN1 virus from eating pork or pork products. Pepperoni lovers, don’t fret or abstain yet!

Somebody told Ammi (my aunt, if you remember her) that the Taliban injected this virus in Mexican pigs so as to ruin America, but turns out that the entire world s paying for this misdeed. The TOI says 168 countries around the globe are battling this pandemic, and it promises to get worse. According to the WHO and Ghulam Nabi Azad, one-third of the people in India could get affected by this virus within the next 2 years. I pray their prediction fails, just like the weather bureau’s forecasts. Amen.

My initial reaction to this “new” problem was one of disgust. I thought the media is going too far this time, scaring poor and vulnerable people, and cashing in on masala and gossip. Generating profit by creating a sansani khez khabar... Have I changed my mind about that? I’m not sure. My mum’s doc insists it is all “rubbish”, and I would heartily like to believe. Unfortunately, empty roads, few by-passers brave enough to venture out with masks on their faces, and newspaper headlines screaming out terrifying consequences of this flu are not letting me discount the intensity of this issue.

While I was first rejoicing on behalf of the school kids who got extended vacations thanks to the shutdown of schools, I was struck with horror when I learnt that an exchange student from my very own high school caught the virus while in the US. Suddenly, the cancellation of the school unit tests and a long leave did not appear to be a very pleasant scene. At the moment , almost 14 schools and a few colleges in Pune have declared a shutdown, as kids are probably the most prone (and less immune) to such virus. Several graduate hostels and classes have closed down, too and outsiders are leaving the city for the time being. I hear most ofices are planning to stay shut for the week, too. (They have a central A/c you see, not too safe if the virus is around...)

Increasing fear among the public could be attributed to the absence of any vaccine to protect against the H1N1 virus. Doctors and scientists are working towards the same, and I hope they strike gold soon. At the moment, there are antiviral medicines (like Oseltamivir or Zanamivir) that you can take to prevent or treat swine flu. These prescription medicines (pills, liquid or inhaled powder) fight against the flu by keeping the virus from reproducing in your body.

I personally consider that any disease that is bound to happen shall, and no matter what number of vaccines we produce, there shall always be more “incurable” diseases that are discovered every year. For example, the Hepatitis which was “breaking news” when I was a teenager, was supposed to be a deadly illness and a lot of my friends’ parents had their kids vaccinated. My mum didn’t deem it essential, and lo! We haven’t heard of Hepatitis since…

Anyway, I’m not advocating anything here on my blog. These are purely my own thoughts and values. But I must say that the sight of every third person wearing a face mask is freaking me out. I have these imaginary symptoms where I feel my throat is aching and that I’m feeling unwell. Especially when I’m in Aundh or in close contact with children.
(Kids coz they’re the easiest targets, and Aundh coz the H1N1 treatment centre is in that area. I know I’m silly, but you can’t say I’m being dishonest!)

Symptoms of swine flu in humans include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue (similar to other common flu symptoms) and vomiting and diarrhea. While a few fatalities have occurred, most patients suffer mild unease for a given duration, depending on their immunity and precautionary measures. Certain people are at “high risk” of serious complications - folks over 65 years, children, pregnant women, and people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions.

The roads, multiplexes and malls are empty coz people are avoiding stepping outta the house. A good move, according to the CDC. But I'm sure the makers of Kaminey and other films releasing this Friday aren't thrilled. Their box office collections will be hit, I mean flop... Dhan-ta-naa... But hey, the positive side is that traffic is less, so commutation takes lesser time, and plus few vehicles so hardly any accidents. Yin-yang.

Back to H1N1... How does the virus spread? Mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people infected by the virus. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something – such as a surface or object – with flu virus on it and then touching their mouth or nose. Studies have shown that influenza virus can survive on environmental surfaces and can infect a person for 2 to 8 hours after being deposited on the surface.

Take these everyday steps to protect your health:
· Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after use.
· Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, especially with alcohol-based hand cleaners. (Use hand-gels/nilgiri oil - one of the preventive measures.)
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, and avoid close contact with sick people.
· If you experience flu-like symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.

You ought to follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures. Be prepared in case you get sick and need to stay home for a week or so; a supply of over-the-counter medicines, alcohol-based hand rubs/tissues could be useful.
The virus is destroyed by heat (167-212°F or 75-100°C). In addition, chemical germicides like chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, soap detergents, iodophors (=iodine-based antiseptics), and alcohols are effective against human influenza viruses if used in proper concentration for a sufficient length of time.

What do I myself do? Nothing out of the ordinary. I haven't bought a face mask yet, and nor do I intend to... Many people I've seen either hang the mask around their necks, or keep their nose exposed, or do some other more creative draping. Besides, who knows how effective these masks are? I've heard the N95 (I thought that was a Nokia handset model) is a good buy although it is comparatively expensive, and out of stock. The others that are being at all prices from 50 to 250 may/may not be good for more than a few hours, after which they need to be disposed.
(Creating waste and disposal problems. Shucks. Never a win-win situation, is there?!!)

Anyways, I'm going to place my faith firmly in God and the transience of all things good and bad. This issue needs to get resolved soon; the Naidu hospital is finding it hard to battle against the rapidly rising number of actual cases and "suspects". God save the world...

Stay safe.



Reema Sahay said...

Well, good that you are able to keep your cool, as I'm getting paranoid. I have bought several regualr masks, 1 3M mask and I'm getting N95 courriered from Bangalore. What do we do? Because here we are talking about Flu. Even normal Flu is highly communicable.
But yeah, I read today that if the temperature goes up say between 37-40 then these can die off. Pune's climate is conducive to its growth.

Princess said...

Omigosh PaP, Do you wear all those together?!!! Need to check you out ;-)

Hmm, the temperature would sure help, but I've also heard that rains could be beneficial at this time as the virus cannot be transmitted thru water. Which is why the scene in Mumbai isn't so serious...

I pray things get back to normal soon. I'm hating the environment and chitchat around town!


ani_aset said...

hey take care :)
and i kind of agree to what you said there about not panicking.

Princess said...

Absolutely, Ani! I mean its freaky to watch people taking so many precautions... But then, maybe their fear IS justified... As the famous saying goes "Better prevention than cure"

You take care, too.


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