Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How to survive Swine Influenza

Hey, I have my first guest blogger. A professor and my infectious disease expert... oh, and my father.

Michael A Noble MD FRCPC

Professor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

University of British Columbia

Vancouver Canada

It’s springtime in the northern hemisphere once again; warming temperatures, clearing snow, cherry blossoms, and our annual reminder that influenza is not a winter time illness. Dry cough, head ache, fatigue lasting usually for about a week. If you are very young (under 5 years) or maturing (over 65) or have serious underlying illness, especially cancer, heart or lung disease, then things can be worse. Likely most will be unaware, some will get sick, a few will get very sick, and a very few will die.

But worse than influenza are the illnesses that come with it, in particular journalistic Alzheimer’s. It’s like every time is the first time. A time to use words like “epidemic” and “pandemic” and to bring out the pictures and stories of the great pandemic of 1918 (folks that is over 90 years ago!). And then there is the daily body count about how many died around the world yesterday, not counting those with old age, malaria, car accidents, drugs and alcohol, etc., etc, etc. It’s probably more likely to make you sicker than just catching the darn infection.

So this year it is from pigs somewhere in the world, and the first recorded manifestations are from Mexico. (This doesn’t mean it started in Mexico. It just means that is where the first people who died and had a sample sent to a special reference laboratory had lived).

Here is what you need to know to survive this years onslaught.

  • Don’t kiss or lick any Spanish speaking pigs.

  • Turn off your television.

  • Don’t buy or read a news paper.

  • Wash your hands regularly. Soap and water is fine, and no, you don’t need special soap.

  • Carry a small bottle of alcohol containing gel, preferably without perfume or coloring because they will be irritating. And don’t drink it.

  • Carry some tissues with you. If you cough or sneeze, use a tissue. Coughing or sneezing into your elbow is just disgusting.

  • Don’t go and buy or wear a mask, unless you like them as a fashion statement.

  • If you wake up with fatigue, dry hacking cough, headache and a fever, and you have not been out smoking and drinking all night, then you might have the flu. Stay home. If you get sicker, go to a clinic or hospital. There are pills that you can take, some by prescription, others, less proven, without.

And next year, you can go through it all, all over again.

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