Friday, 24 July 2009

Swine flu pan(ic)demic

Watching the news one is forced to wonder if we have become a nation of wimps. The Government website and the call centre wound up crashing because 9 million people tried to get onto it. Today the news readers are trying to tell people not to pnaic, but the government is pushing out a mixed message and releasing figures which suggest that everyone is about to go down with the virus. Yet the truth is that it is children below the age of 14 and those suffering from other medical conditions who are most at risk. So it looks like there are an awful lot of people out there in a state of panic over this. So are we a nation of hypochondriacs? It certainly looks like it.

According to the latest figures we are seeing 100,000 new cases in a week, but this isn't really an accurate picture. In Scotland where the first cases were recorded, the numbers are falling, in the Midlands rising and in London static. That last one is a surprise considering that it is there that the system guaranteed to spread any epidemic is absolutely perfect - the mass transport system the Capital relies on. Influenza in all its forms is not very pleasant and even the ordinary forms kill a number of people every year, so why the panic over this one? One thing I would like to see is a comparison with the numbers of 'flu related deaths in other years. I suspect that it may reveal that there may be variations in the age group affected, but that the numbers may well be comparable. According to the latest news we have had 27 deaths from this 'flu, only 6 of which have not had any other medical problems, a number I'm sure is fairly average year on year. So why the desperation over this strain? Why all the warnings and the medical specialists solemnly telling us how much more dangerous this strain is?

I suspect it may be related to the need to whip up some extra funding for the NHS in advance of the next Budget round, but the World Health Organisation may have its own agenda as well. As for the UK Media, well all one cansay is that they will publish anything - preferably scary - to boost circulation and sales. And with the "Silly Season" now upon us as all the politicians take their three months of holidays, the media need something to report so any scare story is going to get the front page and banner headlines. Shades, I suspect, of the "Daily Sport" headline that announced the finding of a B-17 bomber on the moon.

Want to avoid the 'flu? Stay away from crowds, stay away from the local Surgery Waiting Room, avoid the tube and the trains, flying long haul and stay home. And if you do get it, stay in bed, take sensible measures such as controlling your temperature with analgesics, keep your hydration levels up and maintain your nourishment. It's a virus, antibiotics don't work on a virus so don't take any unless you also have a bacterial infection which will respond - but remember, antibiotics can also lower your resistance to other bugs! Above all - Don't panic!

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