Swine Flu and prevention

In 2003, during the height of the SARS alert, I had to travel to Torornto for my eldest son’s convocation. I flew to Singapore from where I took a NorthWest Orient flight to Detroit, and from Detroit to Canada.

I sat at he Bulkhead row, (the first row from the partition seperating business class and economy.. I always booked either bulkhead or the emergency row to have longer leg space since i am a six footer), where normally it would be fully occupied by children and baby cots.. The whole row then was occupied by only 2 persons, myself included, and the whole economy section could not have more than 30 persons, despite it being a jumbo plane…All of us , despite being economy class pasengers, were able to lie down and sleep comfortably across few seats for the long flight. And of course, we had extra attention from the crew, and were really pampered with drinks and titbits…

That was the impact of SARS on travelling and tourism..The whole world economy was affected despite the epidemic being confined to a few thousand cases at most, which was like a drop in the ocean, bearing in mind that the world population is 6 billions.

This time around, the swine flu would hit the travel and tour business hard again. Coming at a time when the whole world is in recession, it is indeed like what the CHinese say ” a continous storm at a time when the roof is leaking”.

Actually, at the present moment, the number of swine flu cases are in the hundreds, and chances of any traveller contacting the virus is remote and probably the odds are little. However, that is not to say that we should not take precaution. Flu has a way of spreading very fast, just like the common colds that we get from our colleagues .. Often, when one guy is sick, the whole office is down with cough and cold, although with varying severity , depending on individual resistance and response.

We have to be vigilant at the ports of entry. Anyone who is detected to have a fever coming into the country must be screened. If there is a possibility of someone being an infected swine flu cases, he or she must be quarantined. However,there is a catch in this.  In the early stages, when the virus is in incubation stage, there might not be any symptoms. It takes only one visitor to carry the virus into the country to start the chain of infection.

Still, vigilance at the ports of entry is of utmost importance in reducing the chances of swine flu cases coming into the country. The Health department actually did a very good job during the SARS outbreak, where suspected persons were quarantined in rooms with negative pressure (where air from the room is sucked out or blown out in a certain direction, and medical staff would be in areas where the flow of air would not carry any viruses to them). and strict barrier nursing were practised.  This would cut down the chance sof spread since the medical team is the one in contact with the suspected cases,and they could become the media of carriers to the public if such practises are not observed.

One thing i find it strange. During SARS outbreak, we have several thermo scans scanning visitors coming into the country. In fact, on my way back from the Canada in 2003, I passed through one of those scans. But the pictures  in newspapers today showed that nurses at KLIA are taking temperature manually… Where are those thermal scanners?

Well, boost up your own resistnace by having adequate rest, sufficient exercises, adequate fluid intake, avoid those who are coughing and sneezing, open your house windows to allow free flow of air, and most important disease prevention technique: wash your hands always and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with your hands ( these areas are covered by mucous membranes, which the virus can easily get through, unlike our skin). The correct way of hand washing is very  important… Pls refer to the link to my article on SARS in Star in 2003, which is available in the comment section of the last post.

Of course, when there is really no choice, there is a prevention drug to take. This is Tamiflu, from roche, which if taken within 48 hours of developing first signs of flu, or after contact with flu cases, can mitigate the effects and hasten recovery. This drug acts by inhibiting multiplication of the virus within our body. But it is not so effective once the flu is past the initial stage.

Tamiflu is available in malaysia. For treamtment, it is a course of 10 capsules, taken twice a day for 5 days. For prevention, the course is one capsule  daily for 10 days. It is not cheap since this is a patented drug, per capsule is in the region of around RM 15, and the whole course is about 150…. Plenty of profit for Roche.. I am sure the shares will shoot up sky high now..

A word of caution.. Do not rush out and buy the drugs.. So far the cases in most countries are not serious, so it is best to wait for more info..



(FYI, i do not have any shares or interest in roche; this is purely for infomation purposes..)

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Disgusted
    Apr 29, 2009 @ 13:09:03

    Dr Hsu,

    Thank you for all this information.



  2. A true Malaysian
    Apr 29, 2009 @ 19:50:17

    Dr. Hsu,

    You can really explain well. Thank you very much.

    Could it get a vaccine jab at your clinic? How long will the vaccine last? As children contract flu easily, are they suitable for this vaccine jab? 🙂

    I think it is worthwhile for government to have flu vaccine jab for school children, if they are suitable for the jab. How do you think about this?


  3. Dr Hsu
    Apr 30, 2009 @ 11:17:21

    A True Malaysian

    the normal flu vacciens will not prvent this swine flu. The noraml flu vaccines are made to tailor to the existing strains of flu viruses. the ones that are being sold now is for the southern hemisphere flu strains, since it is going into winter for the Southern hemisphere countries.

    6 months ago, the vaccines used were for the northern hemisphere strains.


  4. A true Malaysian
    Apr 30, 2009 @ 21:20:41

    Dr. Hsu,

    This article in The Malaysian Insider “flu jabs can filter not protect from swine flu says expert” come in handy to what you explained. Thank you.



  5. Disgusted
    Apr 30, 2009 @ 23:17:00


    We can see some pretty good lies in future. Tourism a money spinner here and with the recessin, do you think the corridors of power will admit any swine fever cases here?

    The policy is always “self-denial”.

    The standard answer goes, “Oh, yes XXX number of cases but checked to be ordinary flu or “so far, no cases but the government is strictly taking precautionary measures….etc…blar, blar, blar…”

    Let them eat cilipadi padi with cilli. Heee, hee



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