Sunday, August 23, 2009

Swine flu, Illness, and now, Ramadan

I think there has been a big gap in my blog, and I will try and make up for it today with a lot of snippets of what, essentially, has been going on with my life.

Well, for one thing, Swine flu (novel H1N1) hit India towards the end of the first week of August, 2009. Cases in Pune were the first to be discovered, and India saw its first death from swine flu in a std 1xth Muslim girl from there. The disease then reared its head in Mumbai, Pune, and so on, affecting many of the larger cities from India. The Government of India, and the Mahrashtra govt swung into action pretty soon, and we had a state of near panic and Pune got touted as the swine-flu capital of India. Masks became the commodity most sought after, and a black market in masks soon became active, with masks costing Re. 1 or 2 now costing Rs. 20 a piece, and the N 95 masks costing about Rs. 80-100 costing more than Rs. 450 a piece.

As the cases climbed, so did the few who succumbed to the illness. In what can be termed a knee-jerk response, Mumbai closed its multiplexes, schools and so on for a period of 3-7 days. Knowing that swine flu is here to stay, this kind of temporary closure did allay anxiety and the hoi polloi got the impression that the government was abreast of things and not dilly dallying, but this was senseless. Reports from WHO and so on tell us that the entire life cycle of this illness may last from anywhere between 1-3 years, so that short term actions will, essentially, be useless.

Swine flu attacks will continue periodically, and over the next year or three, it will affect at least 50-60% of Indian citizens (that's over 600 million individuals). Even if 1% die, we are talking of about 5-6 million people dying from this disease. The expectation is that this may not happen if the organism continues to display the same level of aggressiveness that it does as of today, but there are scientists who are saying that the disease severity may, in fact, increase, as the virus will continue to undergo antigenic changes and turn more virulent (= aggressive).

Okay, so with this swine flu, doctors had a very busy fortnight indeed, as we battled to allay the anxiety of parents who brought their offspring no sooner than they had had a little fever or cough. Speaking for myself, I think I had the best 15 days of practice in a long, long time. In fact, the rush of patients reminded me of a similar panic that had gripped Mumbai a decade ago when there was a scare of plague following an epidemic of plague in Surat a town that lies in Gujarat (a neighbouring state of Maharashtra). At that time, though, the panic remained for just three days. I remember how Surat then underwent a magical transformation from being a filthy city to becoming one of the cleanest cities of India under a new city commissioner.

Anyway, this handling of so many children with respiratory complaints had its inevitable side effect on me, and last week, I came down with flu like symptoms - cough, cold, fever, and body-aches. I did not go in for a confirmatory test for swine flu (incidentally, the municipality and the govt. have set up about 15-odd centers in Mumbai for swine flu testing), as swine flu or not, this illness was not going to kill me, and would be all right in a week to ten days' time. Today is the sixth day of this illness, and though I still have a bad cough, I am able to eat, move and have no fever, so I can see that I will be all right in another few days.

Ramadan is upon us. For Bohras, it started on Friday, and today was day 3, but for the sunni Muslims, it began today, and will run its course as usual. I performed the fasts on the first two days, but gave it a slip today as my cough has turned a lot more serious and I did not fancy bearing this for an entire day. Tomorrow, I do plan to fast, of course.

In other news, everything is going on as usual. Hospital admissions are modest, clinic practice is returning to normal, parents are all right (mom is fasting, dad isn't), Inas is fasting, Hannah isn't, and life goes on.

No comments: