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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Swine Flu. Did Common Sense Fly Too?

We live in an era where anything sensational becomes viral. I sometimes, wonder, if people don’t sensationalize things more now because they want it to go viral. The prestige of knowing something before anyone else and being the first to update social media seems to have hit us hard. With the result that Swine Flu has taken over our natural conversations and lives. There is a fair level of paranoia going on out there. While I agree it is scary to most because of the lack of correct information, I also think it is prudent not to spread the wrong information gotten out of either social media or that ‘reliable source’ who swears it spreads via chicken!

Just to put everyone’s mind at ease, here are a few facts about the virus that we all should know in order to act rationally to care for our loved ones.

What is it?
It is a virus. Very similar to the common cold virus or flu virus. The difference is that this particular strain of virus has the propensity to cause severe infections in few people. However, most infections caused by this virus are still mild and almost exactly like the regular seasonal flu we all suffer from.

How does it spread?
Not via pork, not via chickens. Not even via mosquitoes. The virus did originate in workers who were in the pig industry but the virus has moved on and mutated itself to be able to spread directly among humans.

The main mode of spread is through droplet infection. This basically means that anyone in contact with someone who either coughs, sneezes or does not wash their hands before touching you are at risk. Just being in the same room is not going to get you infected!

How can we prevent it?
Regular hygiene! Covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, making sure you wash your hands regularly, not sharing handkerchiefs or napkins amongst children are all notable preventive measures. Mosquito repellents and creams have nothing to do with the spread.
If you somehow contract the flu, the safest thing to do is stay at home. This will prevent spread to others.

A paranoid fear of public spaces and closed rooms is unwarranted.

You may want to wear a mask -- but you need to be sure to dispose of the mask immediately after leaving the proximity of a suspected patient. If you wear the same mask repeatedly or touch it with your hands, you may be more likely to get yourself infected than if you hadn't worn any mask at all.

How Do I know I have it?
There is no way to know for sure without doing the specific blood tests. Anyone having common flu symptoms may be suffering from Swine Flu. The usual symptoms include fever, generalized bodyache, weakness, watering from the eyes, soreness in the throat. However, please be aware that you may not have any severe symptoms at all.

Is it worth skipping school or parties?

No, it’s really not. Unless someone attending is a known case of swine flu, the chances of spread from known people is highly unlikely. At the same time, just make sure you maintain hygiene and use separate napkins / tissues. Closed spaces are only a risk if a known source is there and that too if they are actively coughing or sneezing.

People can still shake hands with each other as long as they are not symptomatic. Again, the swine flu takes a respiratory root of transmission through coughing and sneezing and landing on a susceptible host.

Doctors recommend that after shaking hands, people should wash them or use hand sanitizer before they touch their mouths, noses or eyes.

Hand sanitizers have been shown to be very effective in killing the swine flu virus and should be used not only by people trying to prevent catching the virus, but also by people who have the virus to keep from spreading it to others

What are the treatment options?
There are two drugs available to treat swine flu but these will be effective only within 48 hours of contracting the infection. Antibiotics have no role in swine flu treatment.


There is a vaccine for swine flu available but the protection it offers is only 65-70%. The older vaccine was available for adults only but the latest vaccine is available for both adults and children. Contact your doctor for more details.

Who should get vaccinated?
All children 6 months to 4 years (59 months) of age
All people 50 years of age and older
Adults and children who have chronic pulmonary (including asthma) or cardiovascular (except isolated hypertension), renal, hepatic, neurological, hematologic, or metabolic disorders (including diabetes mellitus)
People who have immunosuppression (including immunosuppression caused by medications or by HIV)
Women who are or will be pregnant during the influenza season
Children and adolescents (6 months to 18 years of age) who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy and who might be at risk for experiencing Reye's syndrome after influenza virus infection
Residents of nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities
Health-care professionals (doctors, nurses, health-care personnel treating patients)

Bottom Line:
The CDC says that a good way to prevent any flu disease is to avoid exposure to the virus; this is done by frequent hand washing, not touching your hands to your face (especially the nose and mouth), and avoiding any close proximity to or touching any person who may have flu symptoms. Since the virus can remain viable and infectious for about 48 hours on many surfaces, good hygiene and cleaning with soap and water or alcohol-based hand disinfectants are also recommended. Some physicians say face masks may help prevent getting airborne flu viruses (for example, from a cough or sneeze), but others think the better use for masks would be on those people who have symptoms and sneeze or cough.
The 6 feet rule works wonders. If you are six feet away from anyone who is sneezing or coughing, you would probably never contract the flu.


Ananya said...

Insightful article - witty headline!

renji said...

Yeah.. Did Common Sense Fly Too? like that one.. I guess you should add some more content in terms of prevention in Mumbai lifeline.. Locals :)

Unknown said...

Thanks Doc...helps a lot.

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