Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine Fever: A Pandemic Flu?

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.

多年来,流感一直威胁全球人类的健康。数年前,世界卫生组织大胆预测,全球在未来每年将出现一种新病毒或疾病。至此以后,在非洲就发现了伊波拉病疫,在大马也有出现了立百病毒、非典、禽流感,以及最近在墨西哥爆发的猪流感。

吸取了非典的教训,在禽流感爆发初始时,许多国家包括马来西亚就即刻启动防疫措施,严防疫情蔓延,甚至有人预测禽流病毒会演变成袭人的夺命流感。我一直认为,这是有关当局恐慌失措的过度反应。以禽流感为例,禽流感病毒只会通过家禽传染给人类,而且迄今还没出现确认的人类互传的病例。我认为,只要没有人传人病例,流感不至于会爆发成瘟疫,而事实也证明我的想法是对的。

至于最新爆发的猪流感,如果应对有误,它可能会引发全国性的流感疫潮。一旦发生,人类互传的病例就有案可稽。由于病毒可通过空气传播,可以预见病疫一旦爆发将迅速扩散,一发不可收拾。

由于引发猪流感的病菌是新变种病毒,所以人体没有抑抗此病毒的抗体,医药界也未有给人类的预防疫苗,注射普通感冒的疫苗亦无补于事。航空的便利加速病毒通过空气传播,从发源国迅速蔓延至其他国家。50年前,一个病毒可能需要几个月时间向外传染。如今,航空的方便,任何人都有成为带菌者甚至是杀手的风险。

很多人不明白保持个人卫生清洁如何能减少感染风险。鉴于病毒通过空气传染,当我们咳嗽、打喷嚏甚至说话时,病菌会随着飞沫在空气中、地面或物体上面停留,如果我们碰触,就可能会被感染。因此,保持个人卫生和勤洗手时预防猪流感最有效的方法。然而,疫情发展已让人们惊惶,很多人将开始带上口罩,但我要提醒大家必须选择N95或以上的口罩,才能过滤空气微粒。

此外,流行病爆发疫潮期间,尽量避免与人握手、亲吻问候或到人潮拥挤的地方。疫情最严重的墨西哥促人民留待家中,减少出门是正确制止疫情的方法。我很惊讶吉隆坡国际机场的医疗站迄今只以医务人员动手为入境乘客执行体检探温,要知道这也可成为感染的源头。当局应该尽快在入境闸设立热感体温扫描器。

希望卫生当局在入境处能时刻提高警惕,严谨把关,一旦发现患有流感症状的乘客,务必隔离检验严防疫潮。


9 comments:

Charlie89 said...

Dr. Chua,

I don't understand what the MOH is doing to prevent such flu. A Health Minister is supposed to calm the rakyat, telling them everything's alright, instead, he choose to create public panic by telling everyone that he's scared too!

What kind of minister is that? If he is really that worried, he should have stayed at home and not go to KLIA telling people that he's afraid of the pandemic flu. If you can't do your job well, then pass it to someone else!

Doc, you are right about the manual scanning of body temperature. Since the flu is airborne, if the medical staffs are not careful, they would contract the virus and pass it on. China has put up thermal scanner since the day WHO declared the swine flu as global outbreak.

What have our government done? NOTHING!!! It's a major disappointment!

LBP said...

I agree with Charlie's points...our current Health Minister doesn't know what he is talking about most of the time..(unfortunately he is the key supporter and crony of the MCA big boss "Mr. Ong", too bad...no one can touch him!!! )..Rakyat can only vote him out in the next General Election!!! (even that also no guarantee, because some of them can be appointed as Senator and come back from "back door" to be Minister...like Dr. Koh and Chew Mei Fun....)sigh..sigh...sigh

He didn't seem to be able to manage the dengue fever outbreaks last few months..let alone a bigger impending crisis like Swine Flu..I am really getting very worried...Frankly, Dr Chua was performing much more better as a Health Minister during his tenure..and he always conducted spot checks at government hospital to ensure quality..

I really don't know what to say about our government now.....very very disappointing...

chchoo said...

dr. chua, mca is holding the health minister post. i hope your voice can be heard by the dictatorial president. when the rakyat's interest is affected, there is no room for ong tk's political game. if the health ministry cannot handle this crisis well for malaysians, mca will be a history sooner than i thought.

chchoo said...

lbp, it is acceptable to appoint someone with special skills or talent to be senator so that the nation can benefit from their appointment. however, this is only applicable to non-politician or politician whom did not contest in the last GE. politicians like chew and koh are total disgraces to malaysian chinese. anyhow, i do not think either one of them can walk tall in front of the public or talk loud in the cabinet, we all know too well that they were booted out by the rakyat.

I swear said...

Dr Chua,

I do not understand all these panic on swine/pig/hog flu. Pig flu has been identified for decades. It's just that there is a major outbreak now and more people died. Precautions should be taken but not to the extend of creating a panic. And what precautions have our govt taken?

And finally I agreed with LBP on back door Minister, like Chow Mai Fun and Dr Koh. And Ng Yen yen as Tourism Minister? Can anyone out there tell me what Ng Yen Yen has done since she became a Deputy Minister and Minister?

Why can't we learn from SARS which we should ask ourselves, how many people died and how many died from other diseases e.g. cancer from smoking or dengue. So far the deaths are confined to Mexico and it is probably due to poor hygiene standards in Mexics.

Seriously I do not understand why our MOH is so crappy. Just compare pre SARS and post SARs in HK. The toilets and street and so much cleaner and people are more concerned about cleaniless. But then again, we do not have to go so far away to HK to learn. We have got a very efficient kiasu neighbour who can teach us a few things.

Mike said...

Dr appears to be the best and most qualified among these bunch to be the Health Minister. But what to do MCA chosen the Hainanese Head.

When you let a Monkey wear a human clothing do you think you get a human being?

You see to an average citizen like us we need to know what is the symptom and how to prevent contracting it. However every night I watched the news and there weren’t any clear notice or clarification to this.

Even as Dr mentioned, the health workers at our KLIA also not practicing the correct safe procedure to screen visitors. And worse the Health Minister don’t even know about this.

I definitely will not waste my vote on these types of people come next GM.

VM said...

Well well well....the pompous OTK, "high virtue" OTK(of course "pretend" one la), hypocrite OTK will never listen to RAKYAT la...now he is only thinking about becoming Deputy Prime Minister (what a Fat Hope!!) and engage in all the "infighting" and suppressing Dr. Chua and Chua's men....

He is now living comfortably in his own Kingdom with all the less capable and "tukang ampu" fella like Liow, Chew, Wee, Kong, Ng Yen Yen etc etc....

The day when MCA becomes history won't be too long....

LBP said...

To the question posed by "I Swear", I 100% agree..Ng Yen Yen has done nothing beneficial to the Rakyat since she became deputy minister and minister.

BUT I remember she made a boo boo by talking nonsense - I remember the famous "not so funny" remarks by Ng Yen Yen(which is an insult to the women and also become a laughing stock internationally) was that she asked all married women to dress lesser/ sexier at home, and to put up more make-ups in order to prevent their husband from looking for mistress or having affairs outside....WHAT A famous remarks by Ng Yen Yen !!! And Malaysia is full of minister and deputy minister of such quality....sigh sigh sigh ..what type of BN government we have?

armouris said...

more info on swine flu here - FAQ on Swine Flu

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