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You Heard Me. I Called It Swine Flu

I know its been a long while since it was late breaking news, but considering the amount of people asking me about Swine flu, I might as well talk about it.

Swine flu or Influenza A Type H1N1 (H1N1A for short) as politically correct people like to call it is basically your run-in-the-mill viral influenza. Considering the amount of people who die from other types of influenza each year, this version of influenza is basically the same as the rest. It is potentially fatal to anyone who has a compromised immune system. People like the old, the really young, people who are on immune-suppressing drugs (like organ transplant patients), boyfriends who are topless in a 10 degree winter waiting to go for a shower, can be easily affected by the virus.

This is because while it's just "the flu", the genetic makeup of the virus means our body's own defenses can't recognise it easily. So it cuts through our immune system like a hot knife through butter before we can actually do anything about it. The weaker our immune system is, the more severe the infection before we can actually get better, if we can actually get better at all.

The problem is that the media does tend to overplay the seriousness of the issue. Also people do tend to be utterly ignorant towards simple things. Things we take for granted like personal hygiene and general health for instance, greatly reduces the chances that you're going to be infected. Instead, people insist on wearing surgical masks even though they don't watch their hands after they've been outside or even to the toilet while eating an unbalanced diet. Instead, we have doctors advising home quarantines for possibly exposed people…so that they may go home to their families and have them go out and possibly spread the infection instead.

It's not as much our inability to contain the matter, but the fear and ignorance of it that makes things worse. The best thing you can do, is to carry on your daily lives, but with a little bit more knowledge and awareness of your surroundings. Wash your hands after being outside and especially after being in contact with people. Take your vitamins and at least eat decent meals without skipping any.

If you're going to get sick anyway, you will, but there isn't any reason to fret either. As a general rule of the thumb, viral flu comes with it joint pains and increased weakness throughout the body compared to bacterial flu which has more yellow mucous coming out your nose Even so, it doesn't necessarily mean you have swine flu. Also, there aren't really cures for viral flu. You have to let it run its course. Antivirals like Tamiflu which is used to treat Swine flu prevent the spread of the virus in your body and leaves your immune system to deal with the rest. What you can do is to take plenty of fluids and get your much needed bedrest, and at least contact your doctor if you begin to feel the joint pains with fever.

That being said, we'll just have to let this pandemic run its course. After all, viruses are nasty little things that change a lot, very quickly. Every generation has its pandemic and this is the one of the moment. All you need to do is hang back, sit it out and wait for the next one. I'll be sure to write something about that too as soon as someone posts a funny comic about that as well.

When Little Knowledge is a Fatal Thing

Blogathon 2007: Help Sponsor Today!For the past couple of weeks, Yvonne and I have been taking about cancer. Given her conditions she endures, she's no stranger to the hospital. However, given that a friend of hers has recently been diagnosed with cancer, she decided to try and learn as much about it as possible. That's the part where I come in.

Putting the lessons in cancer and cell biology aside, she passed me a email yesterday about some forwarded email passing off as useful information for cancer patients. Needless to say that email ticked me off and I'll show you some of the reasons why:

4. When a person has cancer it indicates the person has multiple nutritional deficiencies. These could be due to genetic, environmental, food and lifestyle factors.

10. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause cancer cells to mutate and become resistant and difficult to destroy. Surgery can also cause cancer cells to spread to other sites.

11. An effective way to battle cancer is to starve the cancer cells by not feeding it with the foods it needs to multiply.

13. Cancer cell walls have a tough protein covering. By refraining from or eating less meat it frees more enzymes to attack the protein walls of cancer cells and allows the body's killer cells to destroy the cancer cells.

16. Cancer cells cannot thrive in an oxygenated environment. Exercising daily, and deep breathing help to get more oxygen down to the cellular level. Oxygen therapy is another means employed to destroy cancer cells.

And the list of lies and half-truths goes on and on.

Basically what the email was trying to tell people was that surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, the only effective treatments so far against metastatic cancer (cancer that has already begun to spread throughout the body) are dangerous and that to effectively treat such cancers we should all eat good food and live a good life. If only the world was that much of a fairy tale. What sick, sad, misinformed person came up with this list. You know what the worst thing about this email is?

It claims to be an update from John Hopkins Hospital in the states.

I doubt an institution as important and prestigious as John Hopkins would recommend pseudo-scientific remedies such as this. I seriously doubt the validity of such a list, especially when at the bottom is says:

Any information in this e-mail that relates to the official business of Carlsberg Brewery Malaysia Berhad and its subsidiaries ("the Group") is subject to written contract and/or such other relevant documents whether by way of fax, post, courier or otherwise.

It's hard pressed to take things seriously when the originator of the email was sent in from a beer brewing company.

Now since it'll be a waste not to put to use whatever I learnt as a medical scientist, that's why in the long 24 hours of Blogathon, I'll be personally writing up the things you should know and understand about cancer. What is cancer? How does it arise? How is it diagnosed? How is it treated? Things I think every one should know so that they won't have to fear it if ever they face it. You don't even have to worry about the complex terms because I'm going to do my best to put it in layman's terms.

Cancer is not something to be taken lightly. It is a tough disease to bear and it's just as tough to watch the ones we care for suffer through it as well. Yet, hope and salvation isn't just armed with blind faith, it's armed with the knowledge of what can and can't be done. It's armed with the knowledge of what should and should not be done. Willpower and strength can see you such trials, but at the end of the road, it is the ability of what we know that feeds us the confidence that gets things done.

So beginning on the 28th of July at 0600 PST, I hope to arm you with that knowledge and with hope a better understanding of the very thing that has affected at least one of us in our lives. Maybe one day, you'll even thank me for it.

This year on the 28th of July at 0600 PST, Footsteps in the Mirror will be blogging to raise money for the Association for International Cancer Research which is a non-profit organisation that helps fund cancer research throughout the world. If you're willing to help, you can sign up on the Blogathon website and pledge your amount right here. Help make a difference, no matter how small it may be.

For more on the Blogathon 2007 series, you can read them below: