I’m almost glad that I will be having some time off in the coming days because with all of the insanity regarding the swine flu racing through Mexico City, and now in certain parts of the US. News reports thus far have done what they have become exceedingly good at in recent years – scaring people. Remember duct taping your windows in case of a nuclear strike? Probably about as effective as hiding under your desk (what they officially taught the last generation to do in case of a nuclear strike). So what do I expect will happen?
Starting soon – in a city near you – ER’s will start getting loads of visits from people suspecting they have swine flu (had our first one already today). What are the symptoms you might ask? Same as any other kind of flu – fever, cough, fatigue, body aches, nausea/vomiting, lack of appetite, etc. Pretty vague right? But there must be a way to get tested right?
Yes, there is a test. Whew, you must be thinking! But, the test needs to be done at a public health lab. So, in other words, it might take a while to get results. But there must be something I can do right?
Sure, if you notice these vague symptoms and get to your doctor within 48 hours of the onset of your symptoms, then you can get antivirals. “What are antivirals?”, you may ask. They are very expensive medications produced in very limited quantities that have totally variable rates of success. What does that mean? It means good luck. Beyond that, only two out of the four available class of antivirals “seem to be effective” per the CDC. So what happens then if you get to your pharmacy and they’re out of Tamiflu or Relenza (the two that “seem” to work)? If you can’t get it within the first 48 hours then its not worth taking. But you’re not dead yet.
The CDC recommends routine precautions to prevent the spread of infectious diseases: “wash your hands often, cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, avoid close contact with sick people. If you are sick, stay at home and limit contact with others”. So, I’m following their advice and staying away from sick people by not working until this fear campaign takes a rest.
The thing that really bothers me though is scaring people over something when there aren’t reasonable options for reassurance. The last thing I want to see is a run on ER’s and people who are minimally ill, but maximally worried, depleting whatever supplies of antiviral are available (even if doesn’t work so effictively) so that later waves of possibly sicker people will not be able to get treatment.
I also hate seeing people get worried over something which in many cases is no different than getting Influenza. Influenze kills lots of people every year – approximately 36,000 deaths and more than 200,000 hospitalizations are directly associated with influenza every year in America according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t change my lifestyle or schedule because of Influenza. Do we really need to change our lives because of the Swine Flu?