Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What’s All This Swine Whine? It’s Common Monsoon Flu, Son!

(At Victoria Terminus a majority of commuters don't wear masks)

Swine Flu, Swine Flu, Flu, Flu, Flu....

That done, buried, that’s what has been the latest obsession of papers and channels. I guess they have a vested interest in spreading fear and confusion. Guess they are scared themselves, the way the newscaster looks when he/she stares into the camera with those goggling eyes of theirs.

First, they don’t have a right to spread the half-baked information they have at their command, as something earth shaking. They are only after TRPs that the scare would bring. Glaring lacunae exists between the glossy colour charts and pictures they have broadcast. Where are hard figures showing how many were tested and how many released, how many had other medical complications, and city-wise breakup of cases? Instead they show scared people queueing up (because of the scare they themselves created) for tests, and the knee-jerk reaction of the authorities. No hard data, because they are too lazy to go and risk themselves collecting them.

Take this document on

“Pandemic years are associated with many more cases of influenza and a higher case fatality rate than that seen in seasonal flu outbreaks. It is common to encounter clinical attack rate ranges for seasonal flu of 5% to 15% in the literature. For pandemic flu, clinical attack rates are reported in the range of 25% to 50%.”

Now consider the situation in India. Thirteen have died of the flu in Pune, national toll is at sixty-five. As stated above every monsoon there’s a flu epidemic in Bombay and hundreds die. These hundreds are either old people who have no immunity or people with other medical complications. There’s nothing that would point to Swine Flu.

The media has been very superficial in the treatment of this important news event. They didn’t provide hard-nosed analytical data about how many were tested what per cent were actually found with the flu. And even the tests are under a cloud of ignorance, read the following in New York Times (much more authoritative than local media):

“But the tests have a severe limitation: They may fail more than half the time to detect swine flu infections, according to newly published studies and to experts in medical testing.”

Various pompous people have grabbed the headlines saying irresponsible things. So what’s the real scenario? It’s this:

During monsoons there generally are flu epidemics in India. This time due to Swine Flu – we still don’t know if it is that flu or ordinary flu – a lot more have been admitted with complaints. Most of them have been treated, cured and sent home. A few who have died have had other medical complications. Those deaths are common in every monsoon season, not this alone! So where does that leave us?

Do we have to spread panic by wearing masks at home, office, trains, and other public places? Save the profits it would bring to manufacturers of medical kits and masks there’s nothing to warrant a scare. Am I going to wear a mask? No way!

A few days back when he had an attack of the cough and common cold my son was sure it was Swine Flu. I said don’t worry son, it’s the common monsoon flu, no swine, whine flu. He is fit and fine now and enjoying his holiday watching movies at home, college being closed. Even wife is having a nice holiday, school being closed.

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