Posts tagged ‘SwineFlu’

The Power Of H1N1

Although I’m personally pretty sure that swine flu is not that different from any other flu, it has proven to be quite powerful. One shining example of this is that it has revolutionized the way my church takes communion. It has been the case for decades that my church sends around thick slices of white bread on silver salvers for people to pinch bits out of, in accordance with Christ and His disciples breaking bread. This week, history was made by the replacement of bread with little round white wafers, laid spaced out on lined baking trays. The wafers were familiar to me, because I’d taken them as a young teen in another church, but they tasted strange after all these years of white bread. Even the communion wine tasted different, like half of it was grape juice.

On an another note, these are what my colleagues have decided to re-name the swine flu as:

Colleague #1: H1N1 looks like it should be pronounced HeeNee.

Colleague #2: No, no. 1 is spelt O-N-E, so the rightful initials of H1N1 are Hono.

Colleague #3: But if you spell the whole thing out, it’s pronounced Honinoni. Yatta!  

June 29, 2009 at 09:27 3 comments

Swine Flu: Bye Bye?

Two weeks on, and people have just about lost interest in the swine flu. There have been no cases in Singapore. Deaths have not occurred in droves. DORSCON status has been dropped from orange to yellow. Doctors can change postings as originally planned.

I get the impression that Asian precautions have been more stringent than Western ones. China is a prime example (Mexican? Canadian? American? I QUARANTINE YOU!). There was an element of hysteria in Singapore as well. Where I was, healthcare workers were ‘encouraged’ to stop eating at the hospital cafeteria because of all the dirty looks from the visiting public… many of whom, I have to say, were not even wearing their own masks properly.

It feels a little silly to think of the thousands of healthcare workers across the country, sweating and stifling in masks and gowns, when there hasn’t even been a single local case. I suppose the goal was to NOT be the person involved if and when the first case leaked through. Whoever and wherever it happened would have had to endure much finger-wagging.

The difference now is that many other countries are relaxing their alerts. That being the case, it would be dumb of us to continue as if this was SARS, because it simply isn’t. 

All the same, I do appreciate that the government was aiming to be safe rather than sorry. A cavalier attitude would have been inexcusable, particularly after SARS.

So the bottomline seems to be that the H1N1 virus is milder than previously thought. As such, it is destined to follow the course of most flus – inevitable spread around the world, with the usual sequelae of recovery in most and death in a few. Flus will always claim some victims among the very young, the very old, and the immunocompromised.

What I am not sure about is: should we be patting ourselves on the back that nothing happened, or feeling embarrassed that we freaked out and went emergency grocery shopping?

And, as I return to the Fruit Farm tomorrow, if it will be a homecoming, or the beginning of a spell in purgatory.  

May 13, 2009 at 10:10 Leave a comment

Back To Work

It was back to work today after my leave. Thanks to swine flu (cannot break habit of calling it that), everyone was walking around masked.

There are basically two main types of mask – surgical and respirator. Surgical masks are the comfy type – simple paper with ear loops or long strings to tie around the head. Respirator masks, well, are hell. They are thick and are supposed to fit like a seal around the lower face, so that you breathe naught but filtered air, which is warm and stagnant. After some time, your face starts perspiring inside the mask, and the perspiration has nowhere to evaporate. So you end up breathing warm, stagnant and damp recycled air. Ewwwks.

And healthcare workers MUST wear these dreadful things at all times of human contact during work. Can faint. Despite that, I hear from a nurse friend that people at the hospital food court are beginning to act like the staff have leprosy. In fact, she advised me explicitly to omit wearing my name tag when I went to get lunch. Man, how sad. I don’t exactly blame the public folks, but still.

In this environment, I am now super-thankful for the luxury of being able to drive, and of having a car to drive. There’s really nothing like speeding home at the end of the day at 120kmh with the radio blasting. Although I must admit that I nearly let go of the wheel upon hearing the news that WHO might escalate the pandemic alert to level 6. Argh.

May 4, 2009 at 19:25 Leave a comment

Swine Flu Update: Name Change

Swine flu has had a change of name. It is now known as H1N1 flu. Far less catchy, but much more pig-friendly. Methinks that this is a political move, partly to save the pigs, but mostly to salve the feelings of those with socio-religious porcine stigmatizations. Apparently, New Zealand ain’t having any of this nonsense and is sticking with the original name.

Whatever the name, Singapore is still at Alert Orange, but we are still case-free, thank God.

I think there are now two camps of thought about the severity of this illness. One camp takes it very seriously. The other is sceptical and talks about media-generated hysteria and mass control.

The Singapore government is taking it seriously. On the whole, I am pleased and reassured by this. It would be silly of them to sneeze at this. After the SARS experience, things moved into place quickly and efficiently. And although MOH releases statements like “the declaration of Phase  5 is  a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent”, the Health Minister also said that “we must also not go into unnecessary overdrive”, which I think is sensible. I do think that the measures being employed on the ground may qualify as overkill, but I won’t quibble with better-safe-than-sorry at the moment.

At the moment, WHO describes the situation as stable. The mortality rate isn’t exactly alarming so far. If nothing worse happens, then I suppose the sceptic camp will have won the day, and swine flu will go down in history as an international ‘meh’.

May 1, 2009 at 21:58 Leave a comment

Swine Flu: It Grows

Looks like it’s getting worse. I just heard the first US death was that of a 23-month-old Texan [actually Mexican; just went to Texas for medical treatment] child. Cases have been confirmed in at least five countries, and there are suspected cases as near as Indonesia and Hong Kong.

It’s terribly easy for things like viruses to spread, isn’t it? A cough, a sneeze, a drop, a breath. Plus, this particular virus appears to be infectious even before symptoms begin, so the transmitter will not know that they should have been quarantined.

Speaking of symptoms, besides fever and chills, headache and muscle pain, sore throat, cough and malaise, it looks like swine flu causes more vomiting and diarrhea than the generic flu.

Whether it’s fascinating or frightening, science has not yet learnt to beat the common influenza virus. Over the decades, or maybe millenia, it just keeps evolving to outstrip natural immunity and developed vaccines. This virus learns and changes. That’s why it’s managed to kill so many people over time. Today’s strain, H1N1, looks to be a descendant of the Spanish flu that caused a pandemic ninety years ago, but it has become a cocktail of human, pig and bird origins. 

Right now, Singapore is on DORSCON (Disease Outbreak Response System Condition) Alert Yellow. It means that we are acting as if the virus has not ‘learnt’ efficient means of human-to-human transmission (yet), and so the main aim is separation of suspected cases. In terms of action, it translates to:

  • Home quarantine for close contacts of cases
  • Restricted visiting to hospitals and clinics
  • Restricted movement of patients and staff between hospitals, except for emergencies
  • Healthcare workers and arriving travellers to monitor their temperatures

Full personal protective equipment (PPE) has also been instituted in local hospitals.

Some hospitals have decided to be extra-cautious, and have upped their internal alerts to orange. They will assume that human-to-human transmission of the illness will occur upon close contact. That means strict containment of suspected cases – no visitors, no inter-hospital movement and possibly antiviral prophylaxis.

However, as WHO has just decreed pandemic alert phase 5, which indicates significant human-to-human transmission, my guess is that the nationwide alert will push to orange, probably by today, and red will happen soon after.

Taking off the doctor hat for a moment, I think that the current death toll from swine flu is not high. One probably has a higher chance of dying today from a car collision or a violent mugging, than from swine flu. Still, the situation is going to get worse before it gets better. It’s going to be important to keep our hands clean, take our vitamins, and get enough food and rest.

Over and above that, it’s a good time to remember our blessings and the people we love. It’s always a good time for that, but we’re such experts at forgetting the truly essential things in life. Life is so precious because death is always a certainty; the whens and hows are just details. In light of that, I’m going to make sure I have a good day today.

Update: Yup, we are now at Alert Orange. Thankfully, no confirmed cases.

April 30, 2009 at 08:46 Leave a comment

Swine Flu & Singapore Doctors

Swine flu begins to show its ugly face here in Singapore. As of yesterday, we are on Alert Yellow. For now, the main impact on government doctors concerns posting changes. Trust this to have happened the week before the 6-monthly mass musical chairs was due to take place. In order to reduce possible transmissions, everyone is to stay put at their current posting until further notice.

As far as I can tell, only my boss and I are happy at the freeze. I’m glad to stay where I am. That’s not the case for most of my friends, who were looking forward to a change. 

Plus, I happen to be on leave at the moment, but it’s full personal protective equipment everywhere, much to everyone’s misery, especially considering the torridness of the weather these days. 

As with SARS, this may be just the beginning of a long and painful period. It’s hard to tell, but my guess is that cases will pick up over the next couple of weeks. There’s a mild panic in the air. There’s no more Tamiflu in the retail pharmacies, and N95 masks have gone to the hospitals at the expense of private clinics.

At Mr. Manx’s insistence, we both got flu vaccinations today and went grocery shopping. I think he’s sort of catastrophizing, but I suppose you can never tell.

April 29, 2009 at 21:59 Leave a comment


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My blog-name is Katie but I will not respond if you call me that in real life because it's not my real name. Yes, I do practise virtual-world paranoia. No, I do not enjoy stalkers. But I do enjoy writing and having folks reading said writing, so welcome to my world. It's nice to meet you.

Playing in my head over and over again argh

I'll Have To Say I Love You In A Song (Jim Croce)

Book(s) of the moment

Hogfather (Terry Pratchett)

Books read in 2010 and 2011

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows (JK Rowling) - 'cos the movie's coming out!
Frankenstein: Lost Souls (Dean Koontz) - ah, bugger, it's part of a series! Now I hafta find all the books...
Dismantled (Jennifer McMahon) - oh, good one
Tigerlily's Orchids (Ruth Rendell)
Shutter Island (Dennis LeHane) - reminds me too much of work
Holy Fools (Joanne Harris) - it's official: I prefer her scary books
A Series of Unfortunate Events; The Unauthorized Autobiography; The Beatrice Letters (Lemony Snicket)
The Little Friend (Donna Tartt)
The main books - 11 so far - of the Southern Vampire series; the Aurora Teagarden series except for A Fool & His Honey - that makes it 7; Sweet & Deadly (Charlaine Harris)
The Woman in Black (Susan Hill)
Full Dark, No Stars (Stephen King)
Room: A Novel (Emma Donaghue)
Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs)
The Bachman Books (Stephen King)
Men At Arms (Terry Pratchett)
Carpe Jugulum (Terry Pratchett)
The Fifth Elephant (Terry Pratchett)
Beauty (Robin McKinley)
The Sandman, Vol 1 (Neil Gaiman)
The Burden (Agatha Christie) - her crime novels are waaay better
Snuff (Terry Pratchett)

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I started my first photoblog on 3 May, 2009. Each post features one picture, with a little story of how it came about. Do take a look by clicking on: Manx Pictures
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Disclaimers: 1) I cannot help but bitch about work sometimes, but everything here comes under the realm of personal remarks, and nothing here is said in my professional capacity. Nor does anything here reflect the opinion of the institutions that employ me. This is just me shooting off. 2) Most identities have been anonymized, particularly those of folks I know on a personal basis. Same goes for my workplaces. However, commercial and public places and figures remain named. Otherwise some things just wouldn't make sense. 3) Links and sources have been provided where appropriate and possible. They are not meant to challenge anyone's ownership. If this causes any discomfort or offence, please let me know.

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