The number of swine flu cases in Australia is now at an uncountable level, with many choosing to suffer at home without official confirmation. NSW now has had 10 confirmed H1N1 related deaths, as the virus spreads more widely across the country. In recent weeks the UK has become a major swine flu hotspot with 55,000 new cases in the past week alone, joining Mexico, where the disease originated, the US, Canada, Chile, Argentina and Australia at the top of the tally.
While health minister Nicola Roxon recently stated the ‘worst case scenario’ death toll from H1N1 in Australia could rise to 6,000 this season (6 times the number of seasonal influenza fatalities) I wonder how influential pharmaceutical companies who sell antiviral drugs and race to make a vaccine are in making such predictions?
One of the most asked questions of the year is “how do you know you have swine flu”. For a first hand and delightfully satirical description, Ben Probjie’s account in New Matilda is worth a read. While you are there click his link to Tracee Hutchison’s recent opinion piece in The Age where she echoes the advice I give clients every year – resist the urge to soldier on, go to bed instead.
While there are no recent breakthroughs on preventing infection, my top three tips remain:
1. Wash your hands well and often. At least 30 seconds of serious scrubbing with soapy water. Dry hands well. Remember influenza-containing droplets are often spread from hands to mouth, nose and eyes.
2. Support your immune system with daily medicinal doses of Vitamin C and cod liver oil.
3. If you feel unwell, stay at home – don’t spread it to your fellow commuters, colleagues and friends. If you are pregnant, have any serious pre-existing health conditions, are young or old then do go to your doctor within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms, as antiviral medications only have a narrow time window to be effective.