Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pigs might fly but the sky is not falling

I keep waiting for sanity to return when it comes to dealing with swine flu. Looks like I could be waiting a while. Not surprisingly this strain of flu like thousands upon thousands before it and thousands yet to come is spreading like … a virus.

Every winter, people all over the world get cold and flu illnesses. Schools are not closed and people are not put into quarantine and masks are not recommended.
The question arises what is actually different about this strain? To the best of my knowledge and based on events that have occurred, the answer is…nothing.

In my city of Perth ,literally half way around the world from the beginning of this issue in Mexico, schools are being closed this week. One child went on a school camp before even getting ill triggering one closure (see link 1). An 11 year old told the West Australian Newspaper that apart from having a sore throat, blocked nose and slight cough he felt fine. His whole school has been closed .The health department has ordered two class years of another school be shut down for a week. If I were a kid I would love this.

Here are some interesting questions. What is so special about a week? If this is the average incubation time than some may come down with it on day 8 or 9. What about siblings in other years? If a child in one of the “closed” years has a brother or sister in another year, maybe at another school what do they do? What about the parents going to work?

Above all else, what is the big deal with swine flu? It is the flu-like any other, possibly less serious than most. The “death” toll is smaller than the usual winter flu and it is spreading in the way any flu does. The same authorities who are running around like chicken little saying the sky is falling have also conceded that the virus will spread and that a large number of people may get it .If so, then why the current circus?

Plans are also underway for a vaccine. The likelihood is that by the time it comes out the whole issue will be yesterdays news. In 1976 a vaccine developed in similar circumstances (ie panic) lead to 500 deaths from complications of the vaccine. Hardly a great result.

The other interesting question is why the authorities are so keen on Tamiflu. A look at the product information reveals that if used at onset of symptoms the median time to resolve symptoms was reduced by 30 hours compared to placebo. In other words you will get better one day earlier if taking it compared to not taking it. In teenagers the difference was 24.2 hours. For those in “high risk” groups (people with cardiac or respiratory disease) there was no difference. In terms of preventing spread the studies in the product information show reduction is spread of between 3 and 10%. This is not massive.

There have been reports out of Japan (see link 2) of suicides associated with use of Tamiflu. This may be coincidence. However the more widely a drug is used ,the more one sees rare side effects It would be a travesty if more deaths arose from the “cure” than the disease.

So why are the authorities running around like chicken little making such a big issue of this? It makes them look important. They are keen to do “what they can” regardless of whether it makes a difference Mainly they are paranoid about being accused of not doing something.

There is no need to be frightened of swine or any flu. All you need to do is look after your health and support your immune system .As I wrote on April 27, “there is much that can be done to strengthen our immune system. Putting the right fuels (foods) into your body is the key. Eat a balanced diet with adequate fruit and vegetables as well as sources of essential fatty acids such as fish, olives (or olive oil), linseed or nuts. In addition to this many people may benefit from vitamin supplements, particularly antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E which help the immune system. Zinc, Vitamin D and Folate supplements are also helpful.

Make sure you get enough sleep, as this is the bodies recharge the battery time and drink 35ml/kilo of water each day.

Most importantly examine your workload and stress levels and take steps to reduce them before they reduce your immunity to illness.”

None of this guarantees you cant get ill at times .It does mean that you are less likely to and that you will get better quicker, without need for quarantine or expensive antiviral drugs. 1 2


  1. A voice of sanity! Thanks for the wise counsel.

  2. i am in second day aqnd feeling better after ur comments is it wise to stop medication i.e if tamiflu was going to have any adverse affect would it not already have done so.

  3. can i take a glass of wine to help me sleep when taking tamiflu

  4. Yes a glass of wine is fine . Usuall side effects hapen the first day or two. Tamiflu generally does no harm but next to no good. If you feel better after taking it ,this is due to your body recovering,not the medication