Hands Off Swine Flu
Swine flu is strangling India. The government in Goa has advised against "non-essential" travel to other Indian states. The states of Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan have asked residents to stay away from Maharashtra. In Bombay, celebrations for Krishna Janmashtami, a popular festival honouring Hinduism's most adored deity, had been cancelled. The health ministry in Delhi has called for "social distancing measures". Schools, colleges, shopping malls and multiplexes across India's major cities have been shut down frequently. Millions of Indians marked the 62nd anniversary of India's freedom from British rule by locking themselves up. According to the headline splashed on the front page of the Times of India, there's "No stopping swine flu". The government is diverting precious resources to control the spread of a virus which, in 90% of cases, is cured without any medication at all. Roche, the Switzerland-based manufacturer of Tamiflu, has been the principal beneficiary of this panic. By July this year, it had made nearly $1bn on sales of Tamiflu. The Indian government alone has stocked up on more than a million Tamiflu capsules. Local pharmaceutical giants want a share of the pie, and are pressing the government to let them manufacture the drug. By the time the drug is widely distributed, the virus will most probably have developed resistance. This is an extraordinary rip-off.
Tamiflu does not kill but prevents H1N1 from further proliferation till the virus limits itself in about 1-2 weeks (its natural cycle). H1N1, like other Influenza A viruses, only infects the upper respiratory tract and proliferates (only) there. The only portals of entry are the nostrils and mouth/ throat. In a global epidemic of this nature, it's almost impossible not coming into contact with H1N1 inspite of all precautions. Contact with H1N1 is not so much of a problem as proliferation is. Most N95 respirators are designed to filter 95% particulate of 0.3µ, while the size of H1N1 virus is about 0.1µ. Hence, dependence on N95 to protect against H1N1 is like protecting against rain with an umbrella made of mosquito net.
While you are still healthy and not showing any symptoms of H1N1 infection, in order to prevent proliferation, aggravation of symptoms and development of secondary infections, some very simple steps – not fully highlighted in most official communications - can be practiced :
1. Frequent hand-washing (well highlighted in all official communications).
2. "Hands-off-the-face" approach. Resist all temptations to touch any
part of face (unless you want to eat, bathe or slap).
3. Gargle twice a day with warm salt water (use Listerine if you
don't trust salt). H1N1 takes 2-3 days after initial infection in the
throat/ nasal cavity to proliferate and show characteristic symptoms.
Simple gargling prevents proliferation. In a way, gargling with salt
water has the same effect on a healthy individual that Tamiflu has on
an infected one. Don't underestimate this simple, inexpensive and
powerful preventative method.
4. Similar to 3 above, clean your nostrils at least once every day
with warm salt water. Not everybody may be good at Jala Neti or Sutra
Neti (very good Yoga asanas to clean nasal cavities), but blowing the
nose hard once a day and swabbing both nostrils with cotton buds
dipped in warm salt water is very effective in bringing down viral
5. Boost your natural immunity with foods that are rich in Vitamin C
(Amla and other citrus fruits). If you have to supplement with Vitamin
C tablets, make sure that it also has Zinc to boost absorption.
6. Drink as much of warm liquids as you can. Drinking warm liquids
has the same effect as gargling, but in the reverse direction. They
wash off proliferating viruses from the throat into the stomach where
they cannot survive, proliferate or do any harm.
All these are simple ways to prevent, within means of most households,
and certainly much less painful than to wait in long queues outside