Press Does a Reality Check On Swine Flu
By Anjali Singh
May 9, 2009
The author is a special correspondent to Citizen News Service (CNS) and serves as the Director of Saaksham Foundation. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org , website: www.citizen-news.org
Lucknow: It was a much needed briefing and it sure caught the media's attention. But then owing to the hype and scare over swine flu the session that was organised for media person's at the Lucknow Press Club was one that was long over due not to mention a very welcome one as well.
While it is customary to reserve one hour every fortnight on the second and fourth Friday of every month for children issues to be discussed with the press, under the Media for Children Hour, this time the organisers of the event UNICEF and Media Nest decided they would make an exception.
So the H1N1 virus was discussed threadbare instead and how!
The main message Dr Abner Daniel, Health Specialist, UNICEF Lucknow had for the press who turned up for the presentation was-Do not panic, but be prepared.
"The H1N1 flu virus that has caused grave concern all over the world as a highly contagious disease, what makes it even more formidable is that there is no vaccine yet for the disease though work is going on to develop one," informed Dr Daniel.
Responding to queries Dr Daniel further stressed that there was no cause for alarm in India yet as not a single case of the virus has been reported. "Fortunately the hot and humid weather conditions of India are not friendly to this virus and that is why no cases have been reported in the country. The virus is just like cold causing virus so it needs a cold climate to survive. Nevertheless the best way of preventing the H1N1 virus from spreading is to be fully informed about it. There is very little known about it so far, therefore it is necessary to take adequate precautions just as it is done when we contract the common flu Special attention must be paid to hand hygiene etc."
So why is India panicking?
To which he answered "The government is taking adequate measures of checking anyone with the signs of cough and cold from entering the country and that is the right way of blocking the virus. The virus is in the fifth stage of a pandemic, so what is being done is required. But one thing must be clear that it does not spread from animal to human but human to human. The virus is made up of avian virus and swine virus which cannot be transmitted to humans. What is spreading now is doing so from human to human and not animal to human," explained Dr Abner.
He further added that the virus cannot spread by eating pork and he also cleared doubts when asked if every case of cold and fever must be checked and looked upon with upon with suspicion, "Though the symptoms do resemble that of common cold, until proper examination is done it cannot be ruled out. I feel it's in the interest of society that such precautions, no matter how inconvenient, must be taken.This is for the safety of the people themselves and they should not obstruct such work, but willingly surrender to such checks,” he advised.
But making it quite clear that while those in the age group of 18-40 are at risk of contracting the virus more as they travel around a lot, he also cautioned that since the virus attacks the immunity of the person, senior citizens and children are specially susceptible. "But in India we not panic as not a single case has yet been reported," he added.
According to Augustine Veliath, Communication Specialist and co-host of the media nest the interaction cum discussion on the swine flu was both vital and topical.
"As a new type of influenza virus that has spread in 24 countries and caused 42 deaths, with 2371 confirmed cases reported so far. It is thus important to know about this virus. I am Hopeful that it will truly add meaning to the phrase “prevention is better than cure.”
Kulsum Talha, General Secretary, Media Nest, described the situation as a ‘public health emergency,” and said that subject chosen for sensitizing journalists this fortnight is not only topical but of vital interest to the society.
Well no doubt about that!