27 April 2009

Swine Flu

No doubt most of us will now be aware that two cases of swine flu have been confirmed at Monklands Hospital in Airdrie, following the spread of the disease from North America, and that a further seven people have developed mild symptoms. There are, of course, cases in Mexico (the source of the outbreak), the USA, Canada and Spain, and the WHO has described this as a public health emergency of international concern.

Obviously, at times like this, information makes a decent vaccine: the more you know, the better your chances at avoiding anything unpleasant. So I thought I'd pitch in - civic duty, and all that:

Stay in the loop. Keep your eye on the news: the BBC website is probably a first port of call for any information. If you're on the move and have a radio with you, check a local station every now and then. To really stay on top of things, head for the NHS24 website (check NHS Direct in England and Wales). It may also be worth visits to the Scottish Government website.

Just because you sneeze, doesn't mean you have swine flu. The symptoms are flu-like - coughing, sore throat, tiredness, fever, loss of appetite and so forth - but those are pretty common things so there is currently no need to jump to conclusions. If, however, you've been to one of the 'affected areas', or been in contact with someone who has, it may be worth getting on the blower to your GP. As soon as possible.

Someone who's only been on a day trip to Largs is probably OK. The 'affected areas' are currently listed as Mexico City, Baja California, San Luis Potosi, Mexicali, Oaxaca, Chihuahua, Naxcalla and Hidalgo in Mexico, and California, Texas, Kansas, Ohio and New York City in the USA.

You should be trying to prevent the spread of germs anyway. Basically, the usual rules still apply for the moment: cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough, get rid of old tissues quickly and carefully, wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, and keep hard surfaces clean. Those are generally the way you stop germs from spreading and the H1N1 virus is no exception.

In the worst-case scenario, you can be treated. Testing apparently shows that Tamiflu and Relenza can ease matters.

So basically, for the moment, there is very little to worry about as long as you follow good hygiene practices, use your common sense and stay informed.

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