46 swine flu cases and counting!

Practically everyday, a press conference is held at the DOH with the secretary and his subordinates taking turns to give updates on the now rather scary influenza A (H1N1) more commonly called the swine flu.

Many times and oft, we hear them tell us to wash our hands, cover our mouth when coughing, cover our nose when sneezing, and all those sort of stuff – as though we don’t know how to keep ourselves clean.

Either strangely or not quite, those who give us the advisory indicates a kind of ‘sexual orientation’ (no offense intended) that one wonders if they were a ‘dominant class’ in their officialdom. Be that as it may, in giving us, daily dosages of health update, we have become scared that the symptoms of paranoia might soon require of us many things.

So, we make clean everything. We don’t touch hands with strangers. We veer away from people who newly arrived from abroad. Priest or nuns should give us the bread in our hands. Malls are taking precautionary steps. Schools decide to close when reports of their students with the flu reach them.

People think now that the flu is something airborne although not true. And the health officials allowed the myth to float. Who has not been scared now? The health secretary is telling a lot of other things – there will be thermal scanners in more schools, maybe more offices, too. This despite having once said, from his arrival from an international conference, that no airport in the world anymore uses thermal scanners.

Pharmaceutical industries start to come up with TV product commercials anchoring on the theme – what drugs or medicines to take – to prevent the flu. Everybody may soon be wearing protective masks in their faces, maybe taking in more vitamins than necessary, wearing clothes that can ward off the flu as it does on dengue bites, just something along that line.

So from real zero incident up to 46 by yesterday’s count, the scare would soon cover the entire ground. First was La Salle, scoring 4 cases by now and then followed by Far Eastern University. Things were almost anecdotal, fact is, very reassuring, that only this and that person were reported to have caught the virus but were recovering very well.

Slowly but surely, the number grows. More anecdotes, less reassuring – these are deemed to have happened now. And there are no pretentions that the government shall be spending awesome amount of money to address this concern. At 46, no announcement has ever been made that it is about reaching epidemic or at least alarming proportion.

The same story line is fed in our consciousness. There is this case in this place, this person and that. There is need to do ‘contract tracing’. We will soon know who they have come in contact with, quarantine them, make available program set for the purpose.

Before we even know it, more aggravatingly if the number increases by double-digit leap, the WHO reportedly now tags us as the country with the most number of flu cases in Southeast Asia. What is this? Things as this point, the health department stops having to do contact tracing, arguing as it does, that the number runs faster than people can be traced.

All these exercises in ‘finding Nemo’, the A(H1N1), is really one in a ‘hunting spree’, even entails a whole lot of stupid guesswork. While at this orgy, at another turn, the health secretary condescendingly says there is ‘no need for schools to close down, workplaces to scale down operations even if there is a confirmed case in them’. What stupidity is that? He scares people and yet tells people not to be scared? What does he think all the health advisory given without let up have an effect on people?

At the end of the day, what this good secretary ends up saying anyway is this or let me just quote what the PDI has printed, to wit: “Sick students can just be asked to stay at home while they have the symptoms, if mild, so that they do not pass on the virus to others. Of course, they should be closely monitored by their parents and guardians while they are given supportive treatment at home.”

So will the good secretary please tell us who are the people who “qualified” being given free treatment in DOH referred hospitals? Dothese refer to all of 46 and more? How funny it all can sound – oft-repeatedly are these said – “flu like symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat”. So what the health chief ends up saying is, as would any parent say – ‘stay home, take supportive treatment and vitamins, plenty of bed rest’ – and then you will be well, everybody will be well. So, when do we have to see a doctor? As the long story goes, employers should be more humane with their employees – treated or non-treated. Oh God, what a myth.