Archive for the ‘Swine Flu’ Tag
I always thought it took years of trials and testing before drugs and vaccines to got government approval, but come the threat of a mass of drippy noses, chesty coughs and sweaty foreheads, with the occasional death thrown in just to keep the media happy, we get the panacea turning up faster than the toes of swine flu’s first victims.
The jab will be first offered to the vulnerable such as the immunosuppressed, pregnant women and those with health problems. Hmm, well that should be good test of the efficacy of the vaccine and its side effects. So by the time they get round to offering to stick needles into us middle aged healthy but unfit individuals we will know if it is safe.
The press will be very keen to seek out the first instant of a bad reaction to the jab and the target of their criticism will be the government. Then again if the whole swine flu episode turns out to be less of a threat than seasonal flu, the same press will criticise the government for over reacting and wasting money. Through all this we will have to decide if we will take it in the arm, a tough one for those at the front of the queue.
Now we all know, the British answer to swine flu is to wash your hands and use a hanky. Other than that we are to carry on as normal, go shopping, go to work, go to the pictures and make babes. It would all be a bit more convincing if there were not so many seemingly official people offering such differing advice. Health Secretary Andy Burnham has tried to straighten out matters today but the fact a national flu service will be set up before the end of the week makes one wonder if hand washing and hankies will stop the problem in its tracks.
Of course it will not be stopped so easily, it will only end when sufficient people have developed an immunity to the virus that its rate of transmission falls below a sustainable level. This will happen through natural exposure to the virus and immunisation when a vaccine becomes wildly available. The current rate of infection is accelerating but the peak is probably many months away and may not occur until late in the year or even next year.
The current prediction of a maximum of 65,000 deaths equates to around 1 in 1,000. Not a high figure and represents just one death in our local community; and deaths will probably not be the biggest problem, it will be the economic consequences of the disruption to commerce and and the strain on the public services that will hit the country hardest. It will take a lot more than the National Flu Service to sort that lot out.
Swine flu deaths in the UK reach 29; there are possible signs the flu is resistant to Tamiflu; the Government is setting up a National Flu Service; the WHO has described the pandemic as the fastest-moving one ever; and some scientists predict the Autumn will bring a significant increase in the rate of spread with the risk of the virus mutating into something more deadly.
The irrational and the very cautious will be stocking up their survival cupboards, donning their face masks and putting themselves into quarantine until the pandemic has blown its course and the world only has the usual diseases to worry about, like Ebola, Malaria, Cholera, Typhus, HIV, the common cold and its more serious counterpart Man Flu. Of course most people will just carry on as normal on the basis the risk of death is very small and what’s a few days off work anyway.
Personally I think its right to be concerned, pandemics do go in cycles and even though we have far more knowledge about the virus and how it works, we also live at a time were part of the world’s population is very mobile and interacts with many other people every day. We also get confined in close contact with each other; each day the London Underground carries 4 million people and the national rail services 3 million. Unless the country shuts down the mechanism to spread the infection is now part of our daily lives. Time for a bit shallow thinking and a longer shopping list.
The general view from those who should know is that the swine flu outbreak may not be as bad as first thought. For the majority its no worse than normal flu and the number of deaths is less than originally claimed. However what has emerged is that swine flu was probably first detected in 1998 in American pig factory farms. At the time the experts warned that the virus may evolve to infect humans and may spark a global pandemic.
Add to this the fact that the first identified case was in a small Mexican town near to a huge pig unit that dominates the place. Of course the factory bosses quickly denied any relationship between their factory and swine flu, but they would wouldn’t they. There has log been a tradition of the developed countries exporting their dirty and polluting industries to poorer countries where laws and controls are less arduous and officials will often cooperate to ensure profit comes before safety.
These developing countries do need the investment but not the problems that come with the industries they welcome. The problem is they have very little power and political influence can often outweigh common-sense. Perhaps its time to apply the sort of controls planned for the banking industry to these multinationals and get the west to do things in other countries to the same regulations they would at home.