Thursday, June 11, 2009

Officially a Pandemic, But No Need to Fear



The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that we are officially in the beginning of a H1N1 pandemic. (Based on scientific criteria, alert level is raised to Phase 6.) However, there is no cause for panic or fear at this point, because a “pandemic” does not necessarily mean that the virus is severe. A pandemic merely means that it is spreading very quickly and it is a new type of virus. This H1N1 (swine flu) virus at this point is still moderate, relative to the seasonal flu. Most people who are infected so far recover spontaneously without medical intervention.

Because of the unpredictability of viruses, however, the WHO is recommending all member nations to implement appropriate preparedness plans. One of the key things is to prepare an adequate supply of vaccines. Depending on how the virus changes after it mingles with other viruses and other factors in the Southern Hemisphere in the next few months, we may or may not need the vaccine.

At this point however, everyone should still be vigilant in terms of hygienic practices such as hand washing and use of hand sanitizers, especially pregnant women and people with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, various lung disease, and other diseases. If you have flu like symptoms and you are under the afore mentioned categories of pre-existing conditions, seek medical attention immediately. If you are not pregnant, do not have pre-existing condition, and you have MILD flu-like symptoms, you will most likely recover spontaneously (without medical care.) However, listen to your instincts. If you become VERY sick with flu-like symptoms, seek medical attention. As long as we are implementing precautious hygienic measures, there is no cause for fear.

I don’t believe we should criticize the WHO or other health agencies in various nations for being alert and keeping a close watch on this virus. They need to do this because there’s no way of knowing whether this virus will become as deadly as the one in 1918 or as moderate as the one in 1968. (By the way, people in the mass media tend to remember the worst case scenarios like 1918 but they tend to forget the mild influenza of the 1968 pandemic. However, there’s no way to know at this point how the current swine flu will pan out. That’s why the WHO and other health agencies have to be alert.

Again, this flu is still relatively moderate even though it is rapidly spreading, as we are in stage 6 – pandemic phase (which only indicates rapid spreading, not severity).

For more information
http://www.who.int/csr/disease/swineflu/frequently_asked_questions/levels_pandemic_alert/en/index.html
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2009/h1n1_pandemic_phase6_20090611/en/index.html

Precautions we should take
1. If you have severe symptoms of influenza, go see a doctor and stay away from everyone else. (Stay home other than visiting a doctor.) Be sure to wash the dishes and utensils you use thoroughly with dishwashing soap and water). Symptoms of influenza include:
- Sneezing , coughing, and/or sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Fever
- Backaches and other body aches
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Headache

Note: If have flu-like symptoms and you are pregnant or has a pre-existing medical condition, you should seek medical attention even if your flu symptoms are mild.

2. We need to practice prevention – which includes habits that we should have anyway to be healthy and fit:
- Eat healthy and get enough sleep.
- Exercise and stay fit. (Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after you use a public gym.)
- Wash your hands with soap and water whenever you have a chance (especially before you eat, before and after you use the bathroom, and after you’ve used any public facilities where you’ve come in contact with surfaces that are touched by many (such as poles in a public bus).
- Do not touch your ears, nose, or mouth.

3. Pray. We need to recruit the power of collective prayer to ask God to not allow this H1N1 to become severe.

Disclaimer: Consult a medical doctor before you taking advice from this blog.

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