The outbreak of the swine flu epidemic is now sending a wave of panic to all corners of the world. Starting from Mexico where it has claimed record number of lives, new cases have been confirmed in all the continents of the world prompting health professionals to insinuate that it will definitely develop into a pandemic.
But what exactly is swine flu? Swine flu or swine influenza is described as a highly contagious acute respiratory disease contacted from pigs. It is an air borne disease which spreads through tiny particles in the air or by direct contact. It is caused by a virus which normally infects pigs and it tends to kill one to four per cent of those infected. The worst part of it is that some infected animals may not display any symptoms at all, making it difficult to isolate and cull the infected ones.
As the name implies, swine flu normally infects pigs and is in most cases, transferred from pig to pig. However, it is quite unfortunate that the virus can transcend this species barrier and infect humans. In other words, the swine flu virus can develop into a form easily spread among humans by combining with a human flu virus as it can equally mutate on its own into a transmissible form. When this happens, it can spread quickly especially in this age of cheap flight and frequent trans border travels. A possible scenario is succinctly described by Meri thus:
Unfortunately it seems to be spreading…all it takes is one infected person to get on a plane out of Mexico…it spreads easily through contact with an infected person (ie: sneezing, coughing, shaking hands, etc). the same as any flu virus. One person on a plane infects 5 more…those 5 get off the plane and infect a further 25 people at JFK Airport in New York…those 25 get on different planes going to different parts of the world…each infecting another 5 people…now there are 125 people with swine flu traveling and infecting more people…it won’t take long for it to become pandemic.
Swine flu symptoms can hardly be differentiated from those of the seasonal flu or influenza. These may include fever, cough sore throat and body pains. According to the World Health Organization, the symptoms can also include acute pneumonia which can eventually lead to death. If anyone displays one or all of the above symptoms, please take the person to the hospital immediately for treatment.
Considering the above facts, coupled with the media hype surrounding the outbreak of the diseases and the scary comments of health professionals and political leaders, it is quite understandable why people are frightened worldwide. In fact the decision of the World Health Organization to raise the alert level to phase five of six, meaning a global outbreak is imminent, is enough to trigger worldwide panic. Instead of panicking, the best thing individuals can do is to be on guard and to do everything humanly possible to prevent themselves from contacting the virus. The following measures are recommended in this regard:
1- Do not travel to a locality where the outbreak of the disease has been reported. Do not travel outside such localities if you reside there.
2. If swine flu outbreak has been reported in your locality, avoid moving close to the infected persons and stay away from high risk areas. Try not to mix with people except it is absolutely necessary.
3. Under no circumstances should you move near live pigs except where impossible. Remember the virus is not contacted by eating pork products.
4. Young children, very old people and those with respiratory illness or compromised immune systems are most at risk. Therefore, special attention should be paid to them.
5. Always wash your hands thorougly after using any public facility, especially toilets and lavatories.
In conclusion, I wish to point it out that testing positive to swine flu does not amount to death sentence. It may be frightening and quite scary, the good news is “swine flu is treatable.” Not only that, scientists have been working very hard to develop a vaccine against the virus that is responsible for the disease. Fortunately, a group British scientists has taken a giant step in this regard. They have succeeded in developing a strain of swine flu that is suitable for developing the vaccine. This is a good news, innit?