Tackling swine flu has become a major challenge for the Gujarat government after the disease has claimed 280 lives in the state. The state government should rope in more private hospitals, and train more doctors to handle swine flu as negligence can prove costly. Symptoms of ordinary flu and swine flu seem to be similar in the early stages. The best thing to do is to create awareness of swine flu among the masses, without creating panic. The concerned authorities must ensure sanitation and hygiene in all public places and to create awareness about symptoms of this disease, diagnostic facilities required for testing H1N1 virus and the course of treatment. Besides designating more public institutions as testing centres, the government needs to engage the private sector too. Help lines and prompt response teams should be put in place immediately. Only awareness, preparedness and coordination can tackle Swine flu effectively. Otherwise, a fear mania will grip the people. On the increased incidence of death linked to swine flu, it could have resulted from late diagnosis. We should have been fully prepared to tackle this disease. Even today people are dying due swine flu.
The best way to prevent the disease from spreading is asking patient having symptoms of flu like fever cough and running nose to take a lot of water for washing hands whenever it is in use and take rest at home for four days.
What matters now is the public awareness — since the virus has been spreading mostly through the coughs and sneezes of those who are H1N1 positive, basic precautionary measures such as regularly washing one’s hands, coughing or sneezing into a tissue or handkerchief (not one’s palm) and keeping the surroundings clean, can go a long way in controlling the spread of the disease. It is also observed that in most cases of swine flu, a lot of time is wasted on diagnosis. Doctors seem to be following the trial and error method, leading to a loss of precious time. Preventive measures are important to mitigate the spread and the virulence of the disease. The government should act fast to control the situation. It is important to issue travel advisories to people and keep the airports, railway stations and bus stands clean. It would be ideal if screening facilities were provided at different locations. Poor sanitation, overcrowding and creaky public health systems create the right conditions for swine flu, malaria, encephalitis and Ebola to thrive. What we forget is the discourse on public health — focused on countering disease vectors — is the nutritional profile of the population, a critical factor in building immunity. Swine flu is particularly dangerous for those with poor resistance to respiratory tract problems.
If proper precautions are taken by the people, it can save us from swine flu. People should take precaution such as reporting to the hospital on the first symptoms of the flu such as high fever, sneezing, cough and body pains. They should avoid visiting crowded places, clean their hands as frequently as possible, avoid hand shaking, cover nose and mouth while sneezing and coughing. Always wear a mask in a public place. Most times, swine flu virus spreads through touching as our palm is a major hotspot for bacteria. It is advisable to wash your hands as often as possible before touching your face. Before embarking on a journey make sure that you take vaccines for HINI virus. Eating open, unattended and contaminated food is like giving an open invitation to swine flu.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)