Swine Flu , How Dangerous Is This Virus Really?
Swine flu, which is caused any one of the several swine influenza viruses endemic to pigs, has gathered a lot of attention from the media today. From Ayurvedic treatment to the search for allopathic cures, swine flu is a hot topic among doctors and politicians alike whose fears regarding its spread and treatment have permeated down to the masses. According to the Health Ministry, Swine Influenza or the H1N1 Virus spreads the same way as seasonal flu and has similar symptoms including fever, cough, sore throat, headaches, body aches, vomiting, fatigue and fever. The Health Ministry of India has stated that swine flu carries a particularly high risk to children, elderly persons, people with low immunity and those with serious afflictions such as heart disease and cancer. Doctors have urged that anyone displaying flu like symptoms should seek treatment.
As of today, over nine hundred people have died of swine flu, according to the figures released by the Union Health Ministry. Over seventeen thousand people have been affected by the H1N1 Virus across India with Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra are among the worst hit states. Consequently, the new government has been accused by the Congress of being ‘criminally negligent.’ In Delhi, the resident doctors of at least fourteen prominent central and state hospitals, including Safdarjung, Ram Manohar Lohia and Lok Nayak have decided to go on strike in order to protest against the lack of government action. They are also demanding better security and the availability of life saving drugs and policies that regulate adhoc employees. They are threatening to launch an indefinite strike from Monday onwards if their demands are not met.
The sectors most likely to be adversely impacted by swine flu are the tourism and aviation sectors. This is because swine flu is likely to slow down the rate of people traveling across and within the country. In addition to these two sectors, other sectors such as the film industry have also been negatively impacted, and some schools, malls and cinema halls have been shut down. At the same time, the Media will benefit due to increased coverage.
Despite the fact that doctors have stated that there is no cause for panic, several myths regarding swine flu have been generated. Some of these myths, as identified by the Hindustan Times, include:
- Getting Swine Flu from Pork
- The Swine Flu Virus has Mutated
- There is no cure for swine flu
- India has a shortage of drugs
- One can only get swine flu once in a lifetime
To debunk all these myths, eating pork does not spread H1N1, the virus is in fact spread by human to human transmission through infected droplets present in the air. Nor has the swine flu virus mutated, according to the National Institute of Virology Pune and National Centre for Disease Control. Thirdly, there is an anti-viral drug known as Oseltamivir (commonly sold under the brand name Tamiflu), which will shorten the duration and severity of the illness if taken within forty-eight hours of the symptoms appearing. Fourthly there is no shortage of drugs in comparison to the number of people infected with this disease, which is less than one percent of the population. The Centre has stockpiled 60,000 doses of antiviral drug Oseltamivir and has advised states to provide N-95 masks and vaccinate health workers treating people with H1N1 infection. Finally, the H1N1 virus works like other seasonal flu viruses and a re-infection is possible. As it is possible to get re-infected, health workers treating people with swine flu have been vaccinated against it.
In order to prevent oneself from being infected with swine flu one must keep in kind that swine flu is spread by human transmission, mainly through infected bodily fluids, which are then dispersed through the air. Some of the ways in which one can protect oneself from being infected are:
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- By washing ones hands with soap and water frequently, particularly in public places
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
- Try to avoid contact with infected persons
- By keeping infected persons isolated until they are well. However, if the patient shows signs of respiratory distress then they should be
- rushed to the hospital immediately.
- Doctors feel that keeping good health in general will otherwise help prevent swine flu
Therefore, in conclusion, it is important that people remain vigilant with regard to swine flu, but at the same time, swine flu in India has not yet reached the stage at which one needs to panic.
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