Friday, May 01, 2009

Don't panic, Captain Mainwaring!

So. We're on the verge of a flu pandemic apparently.

Pig flu out of control! screeched the responsible Super Soaraway Sun the other day, and that was before they'd upgraded to level 5. Mind you, I didn't think the BBC News on Tuesday night was much better - as the newsreader solemnly told us we were currently at a level 3 in terms of seriousness of the situation, a colour code showing levels 4 and 5 popped up on the screen, erroneously giving the impression to anyone walking in the room at that moment that we were already at level 4. Don't panic indeed...

I do appreciate the government is treading a tricky path on this one in the sense that if they don't mention the fact that we should be concerned (and I think there is a genuine worry that this may well be the pandemic all the health professionals have been talking about for years) and it goes global it will be a disaster, but if they do panic everyone and then nothing happens it's another situation where they've cried wolf. And then when the real pandemic happens no one will believe them.
Because the pandemic will happen at some point - Spouse has been coming back from courses for years telling me this. The NHS have spent billions getting ready for it (so a little cynical part of me thinks they need it to happen now to justify the expense. Either that or it's a good way for the government to divert our attention from the financial mess they've got us into).

However, even if this it - and I think it probably isn't because a)we're coming to the end of the flu season and it's likely to die out b) by all accounts the version of the virus that's come here is quite weak and c) in Mexico they're already reporting fewer cases - I think some perspective is needed here.

Flu is a seasonal disease that is most virulent in the winter. Under normal circumstances it affects the vulnerable and the elderly (the vulnerable include asthmatics - so my two who have it will definitely be getting the flu jab this year, a precaution I don't always take) and in this country roughly 12000 people die a year from flu. The concern about any pandemic is that the demographic changes and everyone will be affected (though, not those apparently over 45 - there is a plus side to getting older, I said sweetly to Spouse earlier in the week, given that he has just turned 45. He tells me that is irrelevant actually, he's just as vulnerable as we mere 43 year olds.) However, the projected death numbers are expected to be in the region of 50 000. Of course that is a vast number of normally healthy people to die, and if it was anyone in my family I'm sure I wouldn't be so sanguine. But. Out of a population of 6 million people it is a very very small percentage. Plus think how many people are dying weekly across Africa of a variety of different diseases.
If (or more likely when) we do have a pandemic at some point, the main thing really is not to panic, to observe sensible hygiene routines (my friend who attended all the courses says use tissues, bag and dispose of them straight away, and WASH your hands. You wouldn't believe how many people don't. Spouse says (gross as this sounds) you should cough/or sneeze into your shoulder. Everytime you sneeze on your hands and don't wash them, you risk infecting every surface you touch. THAT'S how flu spreads, so very simple precautions can minimise that.

Having said that, I don't think ultimately we can stop it happening once it starts, because the global village has simply become too small. But are we likely to have an apocalyptic Survivor type plague? Nah. I don't think so.

So I'm not panicking...


Bec said...

I love the piggy lemsip box!

Have never heard of the sneeze into your shoulder thing but it sounds very sensible and, yes, totally gross. Just the sort of thing a doctor would say.

How goes the latest book? It's been an age since I've blogged and have lost track of where folks are at.


Jane Henry said...

Hi Bec, lovely to hear from you. I think I never emailed you back. Sorry... Just finished book 3, Last Christmas, coming out this Christmas, and about to start a new one. Nice to see you back in the blogosphere and hope you aren't sneezing!

F.G. Marshall-Stacks said...

I followed you here from Daisys Dead Air and have read down from the top, (enjoying myself immensely thank you) and read your other blog as well.
NOW I have to use this Lemsip Oink jpg - is there a credit I should mention?
I hope you don't mind.

Not the shoulder-sneeze: no no no
When 'kerchiefless, quickly pull up top of jumper/Tshirt/jacket garment and sneeze inside your own clothing.

peace and love

Ann oDyne said...

The thing about the media hysteria is irritating because they imply that anyone infected is gonna die.

Not true, as you say.
The people (infants, infirm, elderly) who are most at risk from this H1N1, are always, and already, at identical risk from all the other infections we have always faced.

Those MP's over-doing their expenses claims must be glad of the headline diversion though.

Bwca Brownie said...

Now it's 17 July, SIX weeks later, and this is the headline -

Pregnant women told to don masks as swine flu outbreak worsens
Sydney Morning Herald - ‎1 hour ago‎
Australia's peak obstetrics organisation has warned pregnant women to wear masks in public and stay at home if possible as the number of serious cases of swine flu surges".

Yesterday the London Telegraph had a figure of 65,000 in their headline ... an estimate of potential deaths.
I cannot believe that handkerchief manufacturers have not used all this media to promote their product as a means of supressing the spread of the virus.

Jane Henry said...

Hello FG. Sorry I only just saw this. I stole this image from elsewhere, have no idea about copyright!

AnnoDyne Media hysteria v v annoying and now getting worse.

Bwca Brownie Figures quoted on news last night were 3000-65000, and newsreader very very quick to say lower figures more likely. Woman on QT last night who works for ambulance service pointed out NHS can't win. If they don't plan and worse happens, it's their fault, if they do plan and it doesn't, they've wasted money.

There will be more serious cases. There will be more deaths, but I think we should keep it in perspective.