Thursday, August 6, 2009

Swine flu in Pune

The outbreak of Swine Flu in Pune is all over the news and I am forced to think - has anything changed at all for me and my life in Pune so far? On an absolutely phenomonological level, the ansewr is NO. So then, what does it prove (if at all it does)

1. That I am an ignorant fool.
2. That swine flu is not really THE big danger that it is being made out to be
3. That one need not panic. There are realities about H1N1 virus and swine flu that one should calmly consider and take appropriate action.

Unfortunately, there is no one perfect answer. The sad and unfortunate death of a 14-year old girl in Pune due to this flu cannot be ignored and her family will no doubt agree with option no. 1 above.
So what is the danger, if I have to look at it objectively for myself? What is the risk that I will die in a road accident tomorrow compared to dying of swine flu? The former is clearly a higher risk.
Does that mean that I should simply ignore the risk posed by this flu and continue life as if nothing has happened? That would be foolish, going by the magnitude of the risk.
Consider this - Pune has been put under the 'epidemic act' - which is not something that happens every now and then. WHO has declared swine flu as a pandemic, which is also not something that WHO does every now and then. The largest proportion of cases is students. Which puts a very LARGE population at risk. How can I be sure that the kid next door has not contacted H1N1 from his friend who met his cousin who attended a birthday party of a friend who had played football with his friends where the kid that he bumped into has a younger sister who is in the same class as the girl who has had fever and a running nose for the past week, AND whose uncle came back from USA some time back?
A virus that measures a few microns in diameter has got an entire city in its grip. It exerts a power not just on our nasal cavities and mucosal membranes, but on the minds of a few million people. Very soon, it will be several million. (WHO estimates that in the next two years, there will two BILLION cases of swine flu worldwide.) It is time to wake up...
Some realities about this illness that I have learnt from the media

1. The symptoms of swine flu and our well-known 'usual' flu are very similar. So just the symptoms are not sufficient to give a warning.
2. The test can be done only at two govt. centers - namely, Aundh hospital and Naidu hosptial.
3. While there is no vaccine to get immunized against the virus, there is (thankfully) a medicine available. It is called Tamiflu.
4. It gets transmitted through contact.
5. Only 1% of the cases tested positive are fatal. (How does it matter for the family of the deceased? For them, it is 100%....)
6. Overall general hygiene and cleanliness can keep it away. But I don't think a face mask and a hand sanitizer kept in the pocket can really make you immune. They may contribute slightly towards the cause, nevertheless.....

All this does not answer one question. If I do wake up with fever and a running nose tomorrow morning, will I be clear about what steps to take?


Venky said...

wow nice post, i would like to say this this whole swine is blown out of proportion after single death, yes it is sad, but life must go on. If we panic then the situation will get worse, keeping a cool head is the need of the hour.

Just chill reading this unclassifiable bullshit of mine about Swine flew 'h'uch 1 'n' 1

Anonymous said...

There are certain terrifying facts about swine flu.. First- mask usage only can not be 100% protective..there are other modes of infection. 2.Swine flu may not have a single manifestaion in "MOST OF THE AFFECTED" persons(ASYMPTOMATIC- Lucky ones) but..they are equally capable of spreading infections to others unknowingly. 3. ARDS...the ultimate killing sequence in swine flu is absolutely unpredictable..that can happen in person who is young, healthy, without any pre-existing co-morbidities. 4. Patient of swine flu starts shedding virus 24 hours before he becomes symtomatic to 7 days after onset of symptoms.

The actual recommendations coming from infectious disease specialist are - Curfew for 14 days.. Seems impractical?.. but mind it.. 5 deaths / day (13.8.09) because of single disease is alarming figure. I read newspaper today (Lokmat) -mentioning 15 deaths (only??) out of 396 tested positive. Hey count this in % -its about 3.75% deaths amongst positive. Pune's population is 50,00,000. !!! Potiticians and PMC/state officials stating.. do not panic...etc. Some of them even have denied the gr8 WHO opinion as stage 6 pandemic .. Irresposibly they are saying that its not for India...n we will apply Pune Pattern (which is not defined). This is all scaring... are they waiting for thousands to get seriously affcted? dear friends... this is not something to be taken lightly...saying dont panic n ingoring the facts. It's true -DONT panic ...but its atmost important that certain unusual bt absolutely essential measures (Curfew?) to be taken to controll this. India is developing country-where Respiratory illness spreads rampantly because of many things...but this illness is dangerous when it causes 3.75% deaths (as per todays figures- actually its ~ 0.4%) and 5 deaths in one day..need to wake up and to take prompt effective measures.

Take Care friends n Dont Panic.. but be carefull.

Pushkaraj said...

@ Venky - Thanks for the comment. I think the comment by Anonymous helps put in perspective what it would mean to 'not panic'.

@ Anonymous - Thanks so much for the comment. Your well-researched comment deserves to be an independent post, actually.

Ajit Keshav Nair said...

Nice post...I guess media is just over reacting to the entire issue. Masses need information and education not sensation.

In India, we all know that infections like measles, Tetanus, Anemia, Diarrhea and other respiratory tract infections, unhygienic practices and unsafe drinking water take toll of thousands every year, which perhaps media has never hyped about.