Letters to the editor
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.