With daily newspaper reports of this new flu virus, An Tirisdeach wondered just how prepared our own medical service was if a much feared flu pandemic was to occur here on Tiree.
What is a pandemic? A pandemic occurs when a new flu virus which people have no immunity to occurs and spreads as easily as normal flu with simultaneous epidemics worldwide. Last century three occurred; in 1918, 1957 and 1968. The pandemic of 1918, took 18 million lives compared with WWI which also ended in 1918 and claimed 8.5 million lives. The pandemic of 1957 took 1.4 million lives and the 1968 outbreak took one million lives. We now find ourselves at the beginning of the 21st Century contemplating such a possibility again. But is our medical team prepared ? Are we prepared ?
“the commentary has become less measured”
In the winter of 2008, we suffered, according to our G.P. Dr. Holliday “a two month flu epidemic” which decimated, in Tiree School alone, staff and pupil levels. Dr. Holliday informs An Tirisdeach that the surgery has had a Flu Disaster Plan for the last two years and has received a small amount of Tamiflu from the government. Discussing the current media coverage of swine flu and the concerns that people had he felt that the commentary has become less measured. .
Dr. Holliday explained that the first phase would be mild due to the time of year. Autumn and winter would be the critical months and that Tamiflu was no panacea as it only shortens the disease by a day. Dr Holliday was frank and to the point. “ By far the most important measure that everyone could take responsibility for is hygiene, this is crucial “ he said.
“Sing Happy Birthday twice”
“Washing hands with soap and water while singing Happy Birthday to yourself twice then drying hands on clean towel or paper towel would go a long way to protecting yourself against the virus”. A sanitiser gel would also do the same job as soap and water. Dr. Holliday is under no illusions as to how difficult it is to wash our hands conscientiously and constantly to wash away the germs one comes into contact with. He is also aware that children will say they have washed their hands when in fact they have only ran them under a tap. Singing Happy Birthday to yourself while hand washing actually takes quite a time. Longer than one would normally spend on such a task, but it is a critical element. All households have been given a Swine Flu leaflet by the government. The guidelines on sneezing and nose blowing should also be strictly adhered to with hand washing following. Not always easy, and this is when a Sanitiser gel would be useful to have on hand at all times.
“I would hope and expect the strength of Community to rally round”
If the Tiree Community found itself in the throes of a pandemic Dr. Holliday felt that a close knit community such as ours would cope well with it. “I would hope and expect the strength of Community to rally round”. This virus is virulent. Normally a flu would infect one in ten , this virus is expected to infect one in three. Dr. Holliday has been informed that there will be a flu hotline in the Autumn with increased stockpiling of drugs. We can be sure that Dr. Holliday and his team will be keeping a close eye on developments.