LAHORE: There is nothing sensational about the swine flu or its currently existing outbreak. Any one serotype (or strain) may be prevalent at a given time and it happens to be H1N1 strain. This was stated by Dr Ashraf Ali Khan, the infectious diseases consultant, while talking to journalists during their visit to Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre Lahore on Tuesday. “A panic has been created without any reason as we have the ability to test for the H1N1 – a great accomplishment for when it was a pandemic – but of little value at this time when it is one of the usual yearly circulating serotypes. So even though any influenza illness can be severe and have dangerous sequelae, there is no need to panic that this is some out-of-the-ordinary scourge that has come upon us.” “It is represented in the current vaccine. The WHO has recommended that people who fall in the high-risk category get vaccinated with the vaccine available for this year as well as anyone who desires to prevent an attack of influenza”. “Influenza vaccine is a trivalent vaccine that addresses three currently circulating influenza types. It is recommended as a yearly jab in the upper arm muscle. Influenza vaccine has been shown in studies to be highly beneficial especially in people with weakened immune system or who have a weaker milieu in general such as in people over the age of 50and people with immune compromising conditions.” “The symptoms of influenza include fever, body aches, headache, runny nose, cough and weakness. It is spread by droplets sprayed by coughing/sneezing individuals. In hospitalized patients with suspected or confirmed influenza, the transmission to healthcare workers can be prevented with droplet precautions in a single room and with use of a mask.” “Precautionary measures include vaccination, hand hygiene, avoidance of contact with persons with respiratory illnesses that are actively having episodes of cough and sneezing; education about cough etiquette I.e., the use of a handkerchief or tissue to be held on the mouth and nose while coughing or coughing/sneezing into the hollow of one’s elbow – essentially being sensitive about the possibility of transferring your illness to other people.” “Age groups most affected by the flu are children less than 2 years of age and people older than 65. Vaccination can be administered to children over the age of 6 months. All healthcare workers and care givers who look after patients in hospitals or at home should get the vaccine. Influenza can become complicated with bacterial pneumonia which is a serious life-threatening infection of the lungs.” “If someone was to ask the single ‘why’ question about any outbreak, ‘lack of vaccination’ would be the answer. Health departments and other governmental agencies need to make a concerted effort to educate the people about influenza vaccine benefits and support the recommendation of medical authorities so that more and more people make a habit of getting a yearly influenza vaccination.” Published in Daily Times, January 17th 2018.