Wednesday, 8 July 2009

H1N1 swine flu - the new "Man flu"?

So Swine Flu has reached our part of the world. It was bound to happen, the UK ranks currently in the top three countries for cases reported and given the global nature of our society no-one should be shocked about this. It is, nonetheless, a little alarming to hear friends suddenly coming down with the virus and to receive letters home from schools informing us about their cases.

What I find difficult to understand however, is the mass hysteria permeating at all levels in response to the trickle of information and ridiculous "catch it and bin it" Nanny State advice offerings in the media. 'Flu is a normal part of the modern world. We have been fortunate (so far)and whilst the virus in this pandemic has proved to be highly infectious, as is so often the case with such viruses it is also extremely mild. Thankfully the vast majority of us have little to fear from almost any strain but precaution is well advised. But do we *really* need a "cut out and keep" advice flow chart about Swine 'flu? We are well used to children at schools contracting 'flu and other viruses and rarely is there any need to alert the whole community to every sick child or insist on children staying at home long after recovering from what is - for most - a bad cold.

This panicked over-reaction is surely inappropriate when those who have come into contact are advised to carry on as normal? How on earth does keeping the potentially affected patient at home whilst endorsing normal interaction of other household members within the community add up? The worldwide attempt at containment failed completely, so any further attempts to isolate suspected cases are completely pointless. And I use the words "potentially affected" since anyone with any experience of NHS Direct will know full well how difficult over the phone diagnosis is. The symptom list associated with Swine 'flu is in common with the vast majority of community illnesses.

So Mel, I sympathise. We are caught up in the hysteria generated by a government desperate to appear to be holding it all together and doing something useful, and a World Community ashamed of their pathetic lack of intervention in the financial crisis, keen to be seen to be ticking all the boxes on this one.... but really, I think resources need to be directed into preparation for worse, and propagating the sensible advice of many years ago. Keep calm and carry on.

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