This refers to the editorial “Swine flu strikes again: The disease becomes endemic, revealing health system’s flaws” (February 20). The word influenza is derived from the word “influence”. The swine flu virus is rapidly making its way around the world but has been relatively mild as of now. The risk is that flu viruses can mutate quickly into something more lethal. Vaccination for swine flu was used in the early seventies in the US but was withdrawn owing to neurological complications. Many infectious diseases have an animal origin. What starts as a disease in animals transfers to human beings with the potential to spread as a pandemic. The worst global pandemic in modern times was the one in 1918-19. It affected about a third of the human race, and is estimated to have killed 50 million people. Animal-origin flu has been described “an unchanging disease owing to changing virus”.
In a study conducted by the Institute of Zoology in Britain and the Hanoi School of Public Health in Vietnam, it was found that Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Tanzania, as well as India have the highest zoonotic disease burdens, with widespread illness and death. Scientists are of the view that the H1N1 swine flu could become resistant to the few anti-viral drugs that are available, such as Tamiflu. If that happens, the world’s Tamiflu stockpiles, or the other drug Relenza, will be ineffective. The range of drugs against swine flu is limited and preventive measures are important to mitigate the spread and the virulence of the disease. Our health authorities must not be caught off guard.
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