Bad breath rules as swine flu fears rise

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

BEL­GRADE: Bel­grade’s ope­nair mar­kets were a wel­ter of busy cus­tomers yes­ter­day, push­ing and shov­ing to buy one item – gar­lic.

In Ser­bia, gar­lic has long been re­garded as a good luck charm and a guard against many ail­ments. As far as the pub­lic is con­cerned, that in­cludes the swine flu pan­demic, which has re­cently has spread in Ser­bia, trig­ger­ing near panic among the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion.

That is now ev­i­dent in Bel­grade’s pro­duce mar­kets, where the price of gar­lic has shot up, thanks to a sud­den in­crease in de­mand. The smell of the lit­tle white cloves also has be­come preva­lent in pub­lic places, as peo­ple munch on them as if eat­ing ap­ples.

Health of­fi­cials have pub­licly urged the pop­u­la­tion not to take gar­lic’s heal­ing prop­er­ties so se­ri­ously. In­stead, they rec­om­mend opt­ing for more con­ven­tional pre­cau­tions, such as wash­ing hands, wear­ing face masks, or get­ting vac­ci­nated.

But those calls seem to have been in vain.

“Gar­lic is the best, for­get the vaccines,” said Marko Jankovic, an el­derly Bel­grader. “From the vac­cine, you can get sick. From gar­lic, you can only get bad breath.”

Fac­ing a surge of swine flu cases, Ser­bia’s Health Min­istry yes­ter­day or­dered three mil­lion units of vac­cine.

The au­thor­i­ties said Ser­bia has about 270 proven swine flu cases and eight deaths – up from about 130 cases and two deaths at the beginning of Novem­ber.

In many parts of the world, the dis­tinct taste and smell of gar­lic are con­sid­ered es­sen­tial in many meals.

But in Ser­bia – as else­where in the Balkans – many peo­ple con­sider it more im­por­tant than that. Gar­lic is kept on doorsteps or in pock­ets to keep vam­pires away, and un­der ba­bies’ pil­lows to en­sure a healthy and pros­per­ous life.

For cen­turies, gar­lic has been re­garded by many peo­ple around the world as a suc­cess­ful med­i­cal treat­ment for ev­ery­thing from in­di­ges­tion to res­pi­ra­tory prob­lems.

Re­cent med­i­cal stud­ies also have shown that gar­lic can re­duce a per­son’s blood pres­sure.

But in Ser­bia, doc­tors are telling the pub­lic to stop con­sid­er­ing it as a swine flu de­fence.

“Peo­ple must take this pan­demic more se­ri­ously and fo­cus on real preven­tion and medicine,” not gar­lic, said Zo­ran Djord­je­vic, a vi­rol­ogy doc­tor at a Bel­grade hospi­tal. – Sapa-AP

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