Friday, July 17, 2009

Swine Flue – Influenza A (H1N1)

How concerned should we be about contracting Swine Flu, and if we are concerned, what precautions should we take to minimise the chances of being infected? Apparently, most people who become infected by the virus recover without any adverse effect, and those most likely to fall victim are boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 14 years. The elderly and the young, along with those who have chronic health problems are more likely to find difficulty in recovering from the illness, and those same people are the ones who will possibly die because of the Swine Flu pandemic that has spread to over 100 countries.
How can we avoid contracting the disease? There are no sure answers to this question, but short of stockpiling food and drink and cutting oneself off from all human contact, avoiding the virus that spreads this flu will be very difficult. The Government organisations involved in prevention and cure are working flat out to provide Tammy Flu and an effective vaccine, but the latter will not be available until August, and then there will only be sufficient for ‘key workers’ – those who administer essential services, such as doctors and nurses who will become, and have already become frontline workers. Those who work on transport services, communication services, suppliers of electricity, gas, and of course those who provide drinking water; they and other ‘essential’ workers will have priority of immunisation. In time, the Government feels confident that enough vaccine will be produced to protect all those who will not have contracted Swine Flu. Meanwhile there is sufficient Tamiflu obtainable by prescription from local GPs that can be taken at the onset of flu-like symptoms to mitigate the effects if one has Swine Flu.
Swine Flu can become a very personal issue when it directly affects someone dear to you. In my case I would be anxious if any of my immediately family came down with the virus, and I’m not alone with these fears. There must be thousands, if not millions in the UK who are worried about the insidious invader who neither respects age nor gender, nor is the bug only selective of those already suffering with ill health; indeed, the parasite, for that’s what it is, will bring down those weakest in the community, those with the least resistance.
We can do something about not spreading the deadly disease by keeping ourselves in quarantine at home if we suspect we may have the symptoms. If we think we may have Swine Flu we can be vigilant so as not to infect anyone with whom we may come into contact - firstly, by not having physical contact with them, and secondly by using disposable handkerchiefs when coughing or sneezing. These throwaway handkerchiefs should be placed in a bin immediately after use to avoid contamination. Washing our hands frequently will minimize the chances of passing on the virus by means of contact with inanimate objects such as door handles, cash machine dispensers and shared computer keyboards that people may touch.
At the time of writing this article (16th July, 2009), there have been 26 deaths from Swine Flu in the UK. 40,000 people a week are reporting the symptoms to their GPs. This epidemic has become a pandemic, which means there’s little chance of us not being directly affected by it. Even if we do not contract the flu itself, family members, friends and acquaintances will become victims - not necessarily victims to the extent of losing their life, but some will experience anxiety and fear, and others will suffer the physical effects incumbent with Swine Flu.
This is all rather gloomy, but on the bright side it may not be as bad as predicted by the pundits, a bit like the weather forecasts of late, that have put me off sailing my boat. For the coming weekend the forecast is for rain and strong winds, as a low pressure system squeezes northwards along the east coast of England between two high pressure areas. Only time can tell, as with the Swine Flu pandemic.

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