A pandemic flu remains a constant threat to the health status of the world. Few years ago, the WHO predicted that there will be emergence of one new disease every year. Since then, we have heard about the Ebola virus, and back home, the Nipah virus, the SARS, the avian flu and now the swine fever.
When avian flu came on stage, many nations, including Malaysia have to put in place preparedness plan to combat the avian flu. It was speculated then that it could become a pandemic flu. I always felt that it was a panic reaction of overreacting by the health authorities. In the case of avian flu, the virus can only spread from poultry to human being. Human to human spread have not been well documented. Hence, I felt that a pandemic would be very unlikely until there is human-to-human spread. Events have proven that I am right.
In the present case of the swine fever, a pandemic will be a very likely scenario if nations are not careful. In this case, it is well documented that the spread can occur from human to human. Since the spread is by airborne, then we can imagine it can be rapid with disastrous consequences. Since the virus is a mutated form, in other words a new virus, the human beings have no immunity.
Couple with ease of travelling, one can imagine how rapidly an airborne disease from one nation can become a pandemic affecting many nations. 50 years ago, one would not be unduly worried about an infectious flu since it would take months for the virus to travel from one nation to another. Now, with the convenience of air travel, every exposed individual is a potential carrier and also a killer.
These few days I have been asked why personal hygiene and cleaning our hands would reduce infections. Since the disease is airborne, any person who is coughing, sneezing or even talking, the infected airborne particles will land on surfaces and if we happen to touch it, we may be infected. Hence, personal hygiene and cleaning our hands will be one of the most effective ways of combating this disease. Of course everybody will start wearing masks. To be effective, the mask should have size N95 and above. Then only it will serve to filter out the particles. Hence, not any mask will do.
However, when the panic button is pressed, everybody will be wearing mask. Vaccination against the common flu will be of no help. So don’t waste your money on it.
It is best in an epidemic like this to avoid crowded place, shaking hands and greeting people with a kiss. So, Mexicans are doing the right thing by staying at home.
I am surprised that at our international airport, screening is done manually by taking body temperature of the incoming travelers. This by itself can be potential source of infection. It is best that the thermal scanner should be installed.
Let’s hope that the health authorities will be strict with any incoming travelers with high body temperature from the affected countries. They should be quarantined in designated hospitals.