Wednesday August 5th
In the aftermath of India’s first swine flu death we have to ask if the world is doing enough to prevent the spread of the virus.
As an avid traveler I have spent time in the UK, Ireland and US since the outbreak of the H1N1 virus and was only once screened for the virus. This came at the final part of my trip and the destination was Bangalore.
Arriving at 5am each passenger on the flight from the UK had to fill out a swine flu questionnaire as well as pass through a thermometer which detects a raise in body temperature. Yes the process took time and was the last thing many passengers wanted to do so early in the morning but it was also somewhat reassuring.
Entering and leaving JFK airport in NY in June no such process existed. The situation was the same this week in London Heathrow airport and Cork airport Ireland. Passengers were told to inform personnel if they suspected that they may have swine flu but that is where the screening started and stopped.
Worldwide coverage of the virus has sparked fear amongst people. Could they be infected? Could they pass it on? Will they die?
This is a reality that should be faced and unless officials across the world step up their screening then the virus is going to spread.
In July British Airways announced that travelers with swine flu would be prevented from boarding the plane. So too did Virgin airways who announced “”If the medical team believe there are reasons not to fly, the passenger will be asked to produce a fit-to-fly certificate from their doctor or a hospital, and they will be put at our cost on to the next available flight” as of yet no strict measures are being conducted.
Fear also exists over the use of the only known treatment – Tamiflu. Side effects including insomnia, nausea and hallucinations have been experienced in many cases where the treatment was given. In the UK and Ireland patients have been advised against the use of the drug unless the patient has underlying health problems.
Airports should be pressurized into using more preventative methods. There have been reports that the temperature testing is not the best method but it is better than nothing at all.
As the majority of cases in India are related to people coming from infected countries embassy talks suggest that visa applicants will be asked if they are undergoing treatment or have symptoms. Based on this applications may be refused entry to the countr
In country advice
The Indian government yesterday advised anyone with swine flu symptoms to go to designated hospitals.
Countries that use preventative methods
India – 574
Hong Kong- 4,066
Sri Lanka – 55
Thailand – 8,877
Others Turkey, Cambodia, Egypt, China
Countries that do not.
Ireland – 276
UK – 11912
Germany – 7177
Others – Mexico, New Zealand, US, Zurich, Tenerife, Australia, New Zealand.