Panic surrounding Swine Flu in India
MonaJhaveri | 18 Aug 2009
Last week, I returned from a week long vacation with my family to Mumbai, away from work pressure. Instead of cherishing the memories of a week long break I was quarreling within with “Emotional Flu”. Yes, I was down with fever and did have a travel history but were those symptoms enough to prove I had contacted Swine Flu.For my family they were more than enough to arrive at a conclusion that I had to visit the government hospital for screening.
My mother went a step ahead to buy the masks for family. And yes masks were distributed according to the need as enough N95 were not available for our joint family. My cousin who is four and I get N95’s, the only two masks which she managed to buy in black from the chemist. My pregnant Bhabhi and grand mom get a three layered mask which she managed to buy from other chemist and the rest of the members manage with masks bought at the traffic signal when my mom waited there for lights to turn green. But is my family to be blamed for there over precautious behavior? I believe they reacted in a very normal way considering the hype of “The Swine Flu” that was created by all forms of media. Any parent or in that matter any human would react this way if they see a new “Breaking News” every ten minutes on the news channels.
I wonder why the media doesn’t make 572 deaths a day due to normal flu, and large number of deaths due to Tuberculosis, Malaria, Dengue and other diseases an equally important “Breaking News”. Why doesn’t our Health minister call an urgent meeting to discuss diseases like malaria which takes a huge toll of human lives too? May be malaria patients can wait for some time longer as most of them are neither NRI’s nor they belong to elite group who can afford a vacation abroad. With Swine Flu thoughts occupying my house and slowly spreading to my neighborhood I called up my very good friend and a doctor by profession asking him how would I discriminate whether its “The Swine Flu” or normal flu. He explained to me that the Swine Flu symptoms could be towards pneumonia side and with just fever and normal cold like symptoms I should not conclude that I have contacted it. He told me to wait till two days and take normal medicines prescribed to treat normal flu as going to the hospital at the shot to screen myself would be more dangerous. There were chances I would catch the virus if I wouldn’t have till then. Luckily my phone was on loudspeaker then so my parents got some gyaan too. Two days from the whole panicky episode I have normal body temperature and am all energetically penning my experiences of the false panic we underwent. But this whole episode, taught us to stay composed as fright created was spreading faster than the Flu itself. We did not give in to false media panicky and heard the doctor treating Swine Flu, which I feel proved a boon to us.
I urge the media to give neutral reactions to the issue and not to blow the matter out of proportion as not everybody would be as lucky as I to get a doctor friend nor would every parent wait for two days as my parents did on the doctor’s advice. And for the rest of you Swine flu is not that a dreaded disease and has a death rate of seven in thousands much less compared to Normal flu, Malaria and Tuberculosis. Also the Swine flu deaths recorded so far have not been only because of the H1N1 virus but due to some other complications intermingling too. So just take normal precautions like washing your hands, drinking plenty of water, exercising and you should be away from the virus.
And my dear elected government, there was no point keeping the theatres, schools and colleges shut as this was more of emotional response from your side than on medical grounds. You’re decision of shutting of schools did no good to millions of children as they enjoyed days off from school playing in the societies, as my cousin did and the college going crowd enjoyed shopping and hanging out as they had all the time in the world. Did it actually act as the isolation you had thought of? We just need better medical facilities to treat the pandemic and more awareness regarding it. Try spreading the correct word in your families, societies and we shall be better able to fight the H1N1 virus. Prevention is better but panic is not!