I am writing this because I read some of the posts in the other discussion on Swine Flu and was a bit concerned at the lack of concern. Swine flu, in its current form, is quite a mild illness for most. However, it can be and has been fatal to some and there are no guarantees as to how it will proceed.
I find it very interesting that people see swine flu as a product of 'media hype', when actually some of the more frightening facts about swine flu are very difficult to come by (to be discussed below!). Actually, the opposite has been the case: people have been told, time and time again, NOT to worry in the face of very limited evidence that this virus is innocuous. The virus is currently following models of a predicted pandemic very closely, suggesting that it is indeed quite likely that this virus will affect 50% of the population within a relatively short space of time. What does this mean for you and me?
Many people believe that the swine flu pandemic is no more prevalent than seasonal flu e.g. the 'thousands die from seasonal flu every year and only a few have died from swine flu'. Actually, if you read the DoH documents, the concern was never that swine flu would be more deadly in the first wave.. just that, because of low community immunity to a new virus, more people would get it. And if more people got it, the thinking went, more people would be likely to become poorly and die from it working on the premise that a certain number of people always become poorly and die from any flu that happens to be going around. That really shouldn't be a source of comfort to anyone. Also, as of last week, seasonal flu numbers have been overshot by Swine Flu. In pandemics, it would be expected that a virulent pandemic virus would also 'overtake' seasonal flu in flu season - again, increasing the numbers affected because of the lack of community or 'herd' immunity.
It must be remembered that in comparing the two, awine flu differs from seasonal flu in a number of important ways. It affects a different age range of people, for a start. Almost most half of the people who have died from it internationally did not have the famous 'underlying health conditions' either. Normal seasonal flu binds (sticks to/lives in) the nasal passages. Swine flu binds further down the respiratory tract, and often deep in the bronchioles. This is not good news for asthmatics. This 'binding' in the lungs can lead to sudden onset of a viral pneumonia which is, like all viral pneumonia, very difficult to treat. In the second and deadliest wave of the 1918 Spanish influenza, there were reports of people dying from this pneumonia within 45 minutes! People argue that 'there were no drugs' then, but actually, there are no drugs now that can deal with that type of illness. Again, not good news - not for asthmatics, not for anyone else.
In terms of Tamiflu.. well, sorry to tell you, but it does very little, actually. Antivirals can lessen the course of an illness by one day and can guard against some complications, but their role is primarily prophylactic (e.g. to stop you getting the flu in the first place, following contact). If you don't treat within 48 hours of first symptoms, quite frankly, you could be taking smarties.
Another frightening fact is that it is estimated from research recently done that as few as 15% of NHS workers will come to work in the event of the flu becoming epidemic. That has implications for any of us prone to serious asthma attacks whether or not we get the flu. Flu will 'take over' and put serious pressure on all NHS services, and you may find your 'treatment' being given out by admin workers from office bases whose training for the role has been a day or two in the run up to crisis mode being implemented in the NHS.
People's complacency is driven by half-facts. I hear people say things like 'Oh, remember SARS? What became of that?'. Nothing.. because adequate social distancing measures were taken which thankfully quashed the bug. SARS died out rapidly BECAUSE it was taken seriously.. BECAUSE of people's fears. Unfortunately, swine flu has not been afforded that kind of respect precisely because the people it has affected in the UK are are seen as 'only' people with underlying health conditions. ""Oh, it's okay, it only affects people with underlying health conditions"".
Truthfully, the risk is quite, quite small BUT it would be a good degree smaller if people were following the recommended infection control advice (catch it, bin it, kill it). Most people aren't following this advice, as they listen to the government and the media and our Chief Medical Officer urge us not to panic.
HOWEVER, in NOT panicking, we don't seem to follow basic advice we've been given. Do you carry alcohol gel with you? Do you wash your hands properly, following the 6-step handwashing technique? Do you wash your hands with soap and water once an hour? Do you clean handles etc on your doors etc? Do you know the signs and symptoms of swine flu, and have a thermometer in your house so you can act when your temperature rises? Do you have paracetamol in your house to self-medicate? Do you have two flu friends to pick up your prescriptions if you become ill? Is your asthma plan up to date? Will you avoid the doctor if and when you get ill, if you are not having serious difficulties? How will you alert someone if you are having difficulties so that you don't infect others?
Don't ignore this. Keep calm, carry on BY ALL MEANS but let's not kid ourselves that this is NO threat. If we all followed the advice, maybe it would be less of one. Instead, people laugh and scoff at the 'media hype' which actually, proves to be very little at all. Don't risk your life and your health over somethng as simple as keeping your hands clean. Please.
And spare a thought for those of us in multiple risk categories. I don't want your germs either.