medical · news and current affairs · world issues

Flu scare and what we can do about it

First of all, let me cite that as of writing, the Philippines has a total of 147 A(H1N1) cases, the last being a community-outbreak in a sleepy, remote farming town in Nueva Ecija, the town of Jaen.

A(H1N1), as everyone may already know, is a type of flu virus or influenza that is spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people infected with it. It can also be acquired through a direct contact – by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. But the virus, contrary to what people believe, is not airborne, at least not through great distances. You are most likely to get it if you sit beside someone infected with it in close proximity but you will not get it just because you happen to live near DLSU.

Recently, the World Health Organization has  declared a level 6 pandemic, the highest alert, since the virus is circulating at a fast rate. But that said, the declaration is mainly because the spread of the virus is inevitable, but the fatality, which is 150 all over the world, is less than 1 percent of those affected. In the Philippines, there has been no fatality reported yet.

While it seems the only way to satisfy the media is if we report a fatality, I think all the attention being given to it, for the most part, is exaggeration. It’s good that we are being made aware, true. However it’s still safe to say that in times like this, we need not panic. There are far deadlier diseases than swine flu in our country, such as that of Dengue. But while A(H1N1) may not be as dangerous as Dengue, the need to take precaution is still imperative.

Now, while I’m writing this, I don’t mean to say that I’m already immune from acquiring the flu, and in fact, might be at greater risk since I recently traveled abroad and up north where the latest reported cases were. It’s been 9 days since I arrived and so far I feel fine. But the last visit to my family’s province might do me this time. I still think it’s best not to panic and I am listing down, from the UN Org staff Pandemic Manual, the things you can do to prevent A(H1N1).

HOW DO YOU KNOW HAVE INFLUENZA?

Seasonal Influenza:
• Fever
• Headache
• Aching muscles
• Exhaustion and feeling weak
• Loss of appetite
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Dry cough

Pandemic Influenza:

While the first symptoms of pandemic influenza might be similar to seasonal flu symptoms, how the symptoms develop will depend on the nature of the specific virus. It is likely that most people will recover without needing medical attention, but the following symptoms may help you decide if you need to seek medical help:

• Shortness of breath while resting or doing very little work
• Persistent fever for 4 or 5 days
• Painful or difficult breathing
• Coughing up a lot of phlegm or bloody sputum
• Wheezing
• You are feeling better and then you develop a new fever or worsening cough with sputum
• You feel very drowsy and others have difficulty waking you up or note you seem confused or disorientated

HOW DO YOU CARE FOR YOURSELF AND OTHERS?

Caring for yourself

The following are a few of the things you or those you are caring for can do to help reduce influenza symptoms. Of course, if the influenza appears to be more severe, you should consult with a medical professional immediately.
• Measure your temperature. If it is not above 38°C (100.4°F), you probably don’t have influenza.
• Rest and completely avoid rigorous exercise.
• Avoid contact with others.
• Stay at home.
• Drink plenty of fluids (a glass of water or juice every hour).
• Take paracetamol (also known as acetaminophen) to reduce fever and relieve pain. (It does not kill the virus, but it makes you feel better.)
• Gargle with warm water to ease a sore throat.
• Use saline (salt) solution nose drops to help relieve a stuffed nose.
• Keep your nose clean with disposable tissues and throw the used tissues in the garbage. Wash your hands afterwards.
• Don’t smoke.

Caring for others

Most patients with pandemic influenza will be able to remain at home during the course of their illness and can be cared for by other family members or others who live in the household. Anyone residing in a household with an influenza patient during the incubation period and illness is at risk for developing influenza. A key objective in this setting is to limit transmission of pandemic influenza within and outside the home. Even though there is a risk of transmitting the virus, people are going to have to take care of each other if they get sick.

And most of all, Let’s pray for God’s protection. Sometimes, even when we have been strict in following everything and have taken all sorts of precaution, we still become victims. Lately, I’ve been claiming and taking to heart Psalm 91 in the face of great risks, such as when I traveled to Indonesia. There is a verse there that says, “There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.”- Psalm 91:10 I loved that. I claimed it, and so far His promise has been true.

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