Coughing Pig Death: 31 Malaria: 2.7 million

The Archbishops sent around a letter today suggesting that now is the time to stop sharing the chalice in response to fears about Swine Flu (or H1N1 as it should properly be referred to, the pigs have little to do with it now). In any infection situation, sharing the peace is more risky than a silver chalice (which inhibits viruses) and alcohol (which also inhibits viruses), but since when has common sense ruled in any of this debate.

This graph (from the BBC News website) shows a sharp rise in ‘consultations’ with GPs for flu (of any kind). Note that this is just people who come with ‘flu’ – most of these people have a cough.

_46104835_swine_flu_rates_23.07.09

Suddenly, every cough is “Swine Flu” and every hangover is an excuse for a couple of days off work. I am sorry, but all this panic only prevents the genuinely ill from accessing health care.

Yes, infection is spreading, but for the most part the symptoms are mild. It is flu, after all. Real flu will put you in bed for a week. Yes, some people will die from this flu, as 3000 people will die this winter from seasonal flu. These are the very old, the very young and the immunosuppressed.

I remember all the hoo-ha about HIV in the 1980s and how people were worried about sharing the chalice then (it was something to do with icebergs, if I remember the Ads rightly), and we were given sensible advice, carried on and – do you know – the rates of HIV transmissions didn’t increase through sharing the chalice, it had more to do with sex.

In the meantime, this year, Malaria will kill 2.7 million people worldwide. Shouldn’t we be ashamed of that, when Malaria is treatable, but no, it’s a poor person’s disease, and they don’t count. A few thirty-somethings cough a bit and feel slightly under the weather and suddenly the masks are out and the Tamiflu is on back order.

I am personally not inclined to take all these drastic steps, myself. However, I am not presiding this weekend, so it isn’t my call. If it were me, it would be business as usual. Business as usual until dozens of people were dying a week, and not just the vulnerable and at-risk, but healthy people: that is what really marks a Pandemic.

This is a virus. Its best treatment is rest and isolation. If you have got a Summer cold, then don’t panic, don’t call the Flu Hotline because you have a cold. Take some lemsip and have an early night. If you feel a bit better in the morning, then it isn’t flu, don’t panic and get on with your life.

Sorry if this offends you, and it sounds as though I am taking lightly the people who will actually die, but death is a part of life and people die from flu each year. It isn’t as preventable as Malaria and that is what makes me angry and upset. Now, stop wasting your GP’s time and get back on with your life: you’re not going to die just yet.