Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Is the H1N1 virus commonly called Swine Flu really as big a scare as it has been made out to be? Is the public panic and mass hysteria justified? Or are the people actually gullible and just fearful?
Well I'll tell you my point of view. Pune which is the epicentre of the panic situation following the first death from the virus tells a large part of the story. Every second person there is now wearing a mask, everything from homeopathic medicines to quick fix quack solutions which are preventive in nature are selling like manna from heaven as everyone is believing in it (Gullibility or what?). The situation has literally reached a 'Fever Pitch'.
No similar panic exists in the US where many thousands have been affected, and neither have schools and offices been shut down.
As it is mentioned in the TOI Edit Page article,
"... public frenzy over the disease has built up to such a fervour that it would seem like swine flu, rather than being a treatable, curable form of influenza, is the kind of apocalyptic virus seen felling the entire species in Hollywood's best thrillers. Gone is any sense of proportion."
In addition, other forms of flu have similar death rates but not the same media attention.
Cereberal malaria has infected a thousand people in Bihar and over 30 have died because of it but again there is no media attention so there is no panic.
Maybe calling people gullible is a bit harsh but then think, follow my line of thought here,
After the first death, thousands of people in Pune with the mildest symptoms of cold lined up outside the hospital. There were those having the virus and those who did not. Now what are the chances that one would get infected by the virus while waiting outside the hospital amidst scores of people that do have the virus. Quite high you would say, so did panicking actually help you out? No, so dont bother.
It takes a full 15 days before the flu becomes anywhere close to critical. By then all the symptoms come out in full flow and 15 days is a sufficient time to be completely sure of whether one should go for a checkup or not. Also anytime during those 15 days the administration of Tamiflu will cull the virus completely. Even after the 15 days there is a high probability that the virus would be cured.
Having said all that I dont disagree that swine flu is a public health concern. It is, but caution, a cool head and basic prevention and hygiene are the order of the day more than panic and a knee jerk reaction which has a higher chance of getting you infected.