Bad breath rules as swine flu fears rise
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