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Flu Protection

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

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The past weeks' accounts of a new virus threatening to be a global epidemic have left many apprehensive and fearful, and yet gravely uninformed about the said threat. Initially identified as "swine flu" because of laboratory tests which indicated the similarity of new virus' genes to those of influenza virus found in pigs, "2009 H1N1 flu" has been reported to have infected 367 people worldwide, with that number expected to increase in the next days. Medical authorities who have assessed the threat posed by the virus have rightfully stated that people need to be concerned. However, they have also stressed that protection from this virus and from others like it begin with being adequately informed. We agree.

For instance, news reports have stated that many people in identified infected areas have shunned the purchase and the eating of pork, mistakenly believing that ingestion of pork products supposedly infected by the 2009 H1N1 virus causes one to be afflicted with the flu. While such prevalent belief remains, it is fortunate that there are yet no reports that this mistaken notion has caused any negative impact to any country's swine industry.

Another inaccurate notion with a potentially harmful effect was the view expressed by American Vice President Joe Biden that one can catch the virus by staying in airplanes and subways or trains. Such a remark, especially from a top government official, can possibly lead to mass hysteria in public places. It can also hurt the transportation sectors by turning away passengers. For while medical authorities like the US Center for Communicative Diseases (CDC) have confirmed that the virus is contagious, they have yet to declare "how easily the virus spreads between people."

What is confirmed, however, are the ways in which we can prevent being afflicted by the virus. Since it is similar to the common influenza, washing one's hands frequently with soap and water is fundamental. Covering one's mouth and nose when one coughs and sneezes is another basic step. Avoiding touching one's eyes, nose, and mouth, as well as avoiding close contact with sick people (unless it is one's duty), are equally important steps in prevention.

In the meantime, although no case of H1N1 flu has been reported locally, the measure taken by the Albay provincial government to declare "a state of imminent danger" is a prudent effort since this would ready concerned local government agencies in preventing and containing the virus. Far from being alarmist, this move by the Albay government underscores the need for preparation and protection. And an important part of this preparation and protection is to be informed and educated about the nature of the 2009 H1N1 virus, of the threats it poses, and of the simple steps to be taken to prevent infection.

Protection from the H1N1 flu, therefore, begins with being properly informed.