Let­ters to the ed­i­tor

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - TRAVEL2009 -

I WAS read­ing the ar­ti­cle on the last page con­cern­ing swine flu and travel and felt I must high­light one of the points that was made. It is the para­graph com­par­ing swine flu to “nor­mal” in­fluenza, malaria, TB and HIV.

In this case the com­par­i­son seems to re­late to the num­ber of cases, but ir­re­spec­tive of which as­pects are brought up for com­par­i­son, to com­pare th­ese dis­eases is to­tally ab­surd.

To com­pare in­fluenza (of any sort) to malaria, TB and HIV makes no med­i­cal sense. It is like com­par­ing an item of cloth­ing with a kitchen uten­sil. It is without any mean­ing or logic and can only mis­lead un­know­ing read­ers.

No med­i­cally minded per­son would even sug­gest such a com­par­i­son and to any doc­tor the com­par­i­son is laugh­able and il­log­i­cal.

In­fluenza is an air­borne dis­ease spread by close con­tact. TB is spread in a seem­ingly sim­i­lar, yet dif­fer­ent mech­a­nism. Malaria is only spread in malaria ar­eas and sev­eral pro­phy­lac­tic drugs and other pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures are avail­able. HIV is sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted and to com­pare a sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­ease to a res­pi­ra­tory virus (in­fluenza) which spreads eas­ily from per­son to per­son just does not make any med­i­cal sense.

As far as at­tempt­ing to com­pare the num­ber of cases of each dis­ease is con­cerned, this is equally without logic. Whether there are more cases of HIV and TB or not bears no rel­e­vance to the num­ber of swine flu cases. The num­ber of cases of one dis­ease has no clin­i­cal rel­e­vance to the num­ber of cases of an­other. It is of epi­demi­o­log­i­cal in­ter­est only.

The chances of an “av­er­age” per­son con­tract­ing a res­pi­ra­tory virus, in­clud­ing in­fluenza (whether swine flu or not) are much higher than con­tract­ing HIV, even if the cur­rent num­ber of cases of HIV is higher, since in­fluenza is highly con­ta­gious, whereas HIV clearly spreads in a pa­tient-pre­ventable fash­ion.

No doc­tor would even be­gin to make th­ese sort of com­par­isons when they hear the word “swine flu”. No doc­tor when faced with any in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing swine flu would then start to make com­par­isons with malaria or HIV since to con­tem­plate such com­par­isons is without any sci­en­tific logic or rea­son. The only as­pect th­ese con­di­tions have in com­mon is that they are all in­fec­tions.

So un­for­tu­nately the com­par­i­son the au­thor has cho­sen is mis­lead­ing and should not serve as any re­as­sur­ance to trav­ellers.

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