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Swine flu getting serious

For many years now, doctors and health specialists around the globe have been warning of a mass pandemic that could sweep the globe, involving the movement of bird flu to humans in a form that modern medicines cannot control and which become a huge health disaster over the world. From time to time, bird flu raises its head among poultry, mass culling happens, and the danger is declared over; as a result, the world has stopped responding to such kind of threats about future problems related to bird flu. Too much talk about it put out the feelings that this is another doomsday disaster, and if it has not happened till now, maybe it will never happen.
However, in the last couple of days, the world is starting to get a rude wake-up call from another disease that originates in animals and jumps to humans. In this modern inter-connected world. all such health disasters can spread quickly from region to region, country to country, and continent to continent. This is a disease called swine flu, that causes sickness in pigs, and has also spread to humans, causing a large number of deaths in Mexico, and illness in many other countries (link to article):

Health officials around the world worked to contain what appears to be a spreading swine flu outbreak early Monday, while one out of every five residents of Mexico’s most populous city wore masks to protect themselves against the virus. Mexico seems to be the epicenter of the outbreak, where as many as 103 deaths are thought to have been caused by swine flu, the country’s health minister said. An additional 1,614 reported cases have been reported in the country.
The WHO has called the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.” Researchers are trying to determine how easily it can jump from person to person. And Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s assistant director-general, said it was too early to predict whether there will be a mild or serious pandemic. The H1N1 strain of swine flu is usually associated with pigs. When the flu spreads person-to-person, instead of from animals to humans, it can continue to mutate, making it harder to treat or fight off. Symptoms of swine flu include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, the CDC said.

The problems with such a disease are manifold:
– Many of them start in areas where health services are not available at the desired levels, and growth in the disease can happen quickly before detection happens
– Countries tend to repress such diseases for fear of inflaming citizens or investors or tourists (such as China with-holding information about SARS and bird flu earlier)
– Drugs are not available, since the disease mutates fast and there has not been much research by drug companies in this area
– People are hesitant to take the measures that are required to bring such diseases under control (such as culling stock, and taking the extensive health measures and ceasing contact with other people)

The swine flu is not yet an epidemic (or a pandemic), but is bothering health authorities and Governments enough that they are taking the necessary precautions such as ordering closure of cinema halls in Mexico, quarantining people in other countries who have recently visited Mexico and who show signs of flu-like conditions, and so on. If the disease does turn out to be serious enough, Governments all over the world will have to get more active, and take the necessary steps to enhance their health facilities.

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