Thursday, June 25, 2009

A(H1N1) - The flu

Here is what Dr.Alex Tang a Christian paediatrician said:
(his blog:
So Malaysia, as is the rest of the world is closing down schools and starting to quarantine travelers.

I want to raise two questions here:

(1) For a pandemic, aside from being a good traveler, it does not seem to be extra virulent or particularly dangerous. Most people infected by the virus recovered. If we take the number of confirmed cases and the number of deaths, we have a mortality rate of 0.4%. That is not exactly a killer like SARS.

(2) The spread is by contact, sneezing and coughing which is extremely difficult to control. Often many others would have been exposed long before the infected are traced by health officers and quarantined.

To the first question, should we panic? Or is there a need to panic? Apparently the panic is driven more by the media hype and the health authorities than what the plain facts warrant.

The second question addresses our present health measures. Trying to contain this infection is like trying to catch the wind. It is obvious that quarantines and closing of schools, factories or congress will do nothing to stop the spread. So why are so many countries and health authorities, not to mention a certain health minister and a deputy prime minister spending so much money and effort to catch the wind? Wearing face masks and giving influenza vaccine is known to be not effective prevention against influenza A (H1N1).

I will suggest that instead of instilling panic in our populations and wasting valuable resources in isolation and quarantine, we should

(1) allow the infection to spread. People over time will develop immunity to it. We call this herd immunity.

(2) focus our resources on treating those who became really sick due to this virus. There are anti-viral agents which are effective against the virus.

(3) educate the population about personal hygiene, especially hand-washing.

Following the news about the pandemic of Influenza A (H1N1), I wonder if the response is more political, emotional and knee-jerk rather than evidence-based medicine. It did take our mind off the world wide financial crisis.

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