Despite a statement by the World Health Organization (WHO) that a flu pandemic is not inevitable, levels of tension across the globe are increasing. The WHO recently revised its alert level to four, just two short of a pandemic, and the effects are being seen in the already stretched financial markets. Both the Dow Jones and Nasdaq have reported percentage drops and shares in airlines have dropped dramatically as fears about global travel restrictions begin to bite.
In Mexico City, where deaths from the new strain of flu have been widely reported, a siege mentally has been reported. People are stocking up on groceries and closing their doors. Normally bustling areas such as schools, museums, bars, clubs and even churches have closed their doors - encouraged to do so by the Mexican authorities.
On the face of it there is a lot to be concerned about, but let's take a closer look at the situation closer to home and try to assess just how anxious we really need to be.
Despite the tragic and widely reported number of deaths in Mexico, the fact remains that confirmed cases of swine flu in other areas of the world have been fairly mild. Experts continue to monitor the situation but the evidence to date suggests that the swine flu virus responds well to existing available treatments like Tamiflu and Relenza. Some experts are considering the possibility of a local factor, such as subtle variant of the flu in Mexico, that is unlikely to spread beyond that community.
There is little doubt that any dose of flu can be bad news for the frail, the elderly and the very young. For this reason it is sensible to maintain a healthy lifestyle of exercise, good diet, and where possible, avoiding public places if you know influenza is in your locality.
We have lived with flu for centuries. It mutates and spreads but we are better prepared to deal with it than we have ever been.
Terms like ‘global pandemic' sound fearful. The anxieties that arise make people more sensitive to information - which may be based on fact or fiction. Rumors frequently make their way around communities and the internet in such situations so it's important to ground yourself and make sure the information you receive comes from a reputable source such as the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/
The flu virus is spreading so there is no harm in taking a few practical steps. If the flu reaches your area, you may find that officials recommend limiting your movements. It might therefore be useful to buy a few extra things in the next time you go shopping in order to reduce the number of times you need to go out. Even if you get flu, the last thing you'll want to do is spread the infection so the advice is useful anyway.
Unless you know that your personal situation leaves you particularly vulnerable to the effects of flu, don't rush to the emergency room or your doctor. Make an appointment to see your doctor in the usual way and discuss the issue with them. Most people have experienced flu and know what to expect. Unless the situation changes with the current strain of flu there appears to be no reason to treat this any differently.
Published On: April 28, 2009