No reason to panic over A (H1N1)
COMMENT:DR PAUL YEO
With more than 7,000 people afflicted with the A (H1N1) virus and Malaysia recording its first confirmed case, we have to act to keep it from spreading. But there’s little reason to fear as the virus can be quelled and sent into the footnotes of his
IT’S official. A (H1N1) has affected one of our own, a 21-year-old who returned from the US on Wednesday morning.
We are now part of the family of more than 30 nations that have reported cases of this strain of flu.
Let’s keep things in perspective. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a quarter to half a million people die annually from influenza, so A (H1N1) is by no means the only flu virus that can kill.
The reason such new strains are more virulent is that natural human immunity has not been developed against them.
The latest WHO statistics show that the number of confirmed cases of A (H1N1) stands at 7,000 to 8,000 people in more than 30 countries, with 60 to 70 fatalities.
That’s a fatality rate of less than 1%, suggesting that the virus may not be as virulent as initially thought.
Lessons learnt from the SARS epidemic and the avian flu scare several years ago have primed governments to respond to similar outbreaks rapidly.
In Malaysia, the authorities are now trying to contact all the passengers and crew on the same flight as the 21-year-old to ascertain whether they have been affected so that they can take the necessary steps to treat those who need it and prevent transmission to other people.
Entry and exit points in the country are being monitored. Designated hospitals are primed to treat patients suspected of having contracted the flu.
Quarantine procedures are in place. We have anti-virals to treat those confirmed to have A (H1N1).
We are prepared.
In the meantime, we have to take care of our own. For those who are planning overseas travel, try not to go to places that are affected by the virus.
If you really need to travel, it’s time to get to know your GP a bit better. Seek his/her advice before you travel.
Be wary of flu-like symptoms such as fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, body aches and coughing.
Some people may have runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
If such symptoms manifest, see your doctor immediately, especially if you fall in the high-risk group – younger children, the elderly, those who have chronic diseases and those who are immuno-compromised.
If you do have such symptoms, try and keep away from others and seek medical attention immediately.
Do practise better hygiene standards. Wash your hands regularly, especially after using the toilet, before every meal and after a trip outside.
And try not to sneeze into someone’s face. Sneeze into a piece of tissue instead and discard that tissue properly.
If you’re coughing and sneezing frequently, and need to go out in public, use a face mask to cover your nose and mouth.
Try and keep up with the news for regular updates from the Health Ministry.
For the passengers who travelled on Malaysian Airlines flight MH091 from Newark in the Uni-ted States to Kuala Lumpur on May 13, please contact the Health Ministry at 03-8881 0200/0300.
It’s not only for your own protection, but for the protection of your family and friends.
The Government is doing its part in trying to contain the spread of A (H1N1).
We need to do our part too.
We can take a few a simple steps to protect ourselves, our friends and our loved ones. Some experts are predicting a second, deadlier wave of A (H1N1).
Be that as it may, if we take the necessary steps to reduce our risk exposure, nature will take its course, and A (H1N1) will become a footnote in history, one amongst many.
We have to be careful: A (H1N1) may not be spreading like wildfire yet, but the fear of the A (H1N1) virus definitely is.
> Paul Yeo graduated as a medical doctor and is health editor of Fit4Life, StarMag.