More About Swine Flu

August 13, 2009

Swine flu has been a hotly debated topic in our home in recent days. Amit thinks my attitude is too ‘practical’ – which, I suspect, means unsympathetic.

Actually that’s not my intention, or even my area of focus. My only point is that, from what I’ve seen of the newspapers’ reports on this matter, the media is being irresponsible, giving a sensationalised picture instead of a balanced picture, trying to portray a doomsday scenario. Relevant reassuring information is buried. All of this tends to create a panic response in the general public.

I think that perhaps yesterday and today there is a slight improvement in the coverage – at least a few less alarmist facts and sensible precautions are also mentioned. A couple of points were made to the effect that there’s no need to panic.

It is, no doubt, alarming and sad that the number of deaths is so excessively high in India. From what I gather, several patients were admitted to hospital in a critical condition and couldn’t be saved. I wish people would get admitted sooner. I’m not, for a moment, saying that if someone gets sick, they should take it lightly until they turn critical. I do think that, with swine flu around, anyone who has fever and so on should go to the doctor. But it’s also true that an excessive number of people being tested could lead to a delay in getting the test results, with potentially serious consequences.

Plus, if you really aren’t that unwell, do you seriously want to spend some hours standing in a queue of 300 potential cases of swine flu?

A couple of news items that I read today seemed to me worth quoting in support of whatever I’m trying to say.

According to WHO, there have been 1462 deaths globally (as of Tuesday) since the outbreak of swine flu in April. (Deccan Herald page 7)

A Hindu Op-Ed article by a host of doctors says, “The hysteria created by the media and the knee-jerk reaction from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, are not conducive to rational and well-informed management of the situation.
“Swine flu is not more lethal, for instance, than ordinary flu and dengue. There is thus no need for the panic response. It can be treated like any ordinary flu, unless there are complications that require hospitalisation.”

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be worried about swine flu. I’m saying, we can be equally worried about chicken pox, ordinary flu, gastroenteritis, chikungunya, dengue, and drought. It’s just one more thing to try to avoid – let’s not blow it out of proportion.

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