Pass notes No 3,736 Aus­tralian flu

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Full name: In­fluenza A virus sub­type H3N2.

Symp­toms: Fever, nau­sea, vom­it­ing, di­ar­rhoea, sore throat, dif­fi­culty sleep­ing, headache.

It just sounds like you’ve got a cold, pal. It’s slightly more se­ri­ous than that. The spread of Aus­tralian flu is po­ten­tially the worst out­break in 50 years. It’s why so many hos­pi­tals are strug­gling to cope. It’s not that bad, surely. Take a look at flusurvey. org.uk. It’s a map of the coun­try where peo­ple can reg­is­ter their symp­toms. Reg­is­tra­tions have sud­denly spiked over the past cou­ple of days. There is barely an un­in­fected re­gion left in the whole coun­try.

We are an is­land of snowflakes. I mean, not re­ally. We’re not talk­ing mi­nor snif­fles here. It is thought that 17 peo­ple were ad­mit­ted to in­ten­sive care be­cause of Aus­tralian flu last week alone. In Australia, the source of the strain, more than 300 peo­ple have died be­cause of it.

I can’t think of a pithy come­back here. And worse is ap­par­ently to come. If this re­ally is as bad as the 1968 Hong Kong flu out­break – caused by the same sub­type – then be­tween 1 mil­lion and 4 mil­lion peo­ple could die from it.

Oh my God. On the plus side, it’s un­likely to be as vir­u­lent as the Span­ish flu out­break 100 years ago. That is thought to have caused be­tween 25 mil­lion and 50 mil­lion deaths.

Oh my GOD. What are we sup­posed to do? If you have al­ready got the flu, it is rec­om­mended that you stay in bed, drink lots of wa­ter and treat aches and pains with ibupro­fen and parac­eta­mol. And if I don’t have it? A vac­cine is still avail­able, al­though it can take up to two weeks to kick in and there are fears that it is los­ing its ef­fec­tive­ness with el­derly peo­ple.

So, what should I do? You could fol­low the lead of the Down and Con­nor Catholic dio­cese in North­ern Ire­land, which has tem­po­rar­ily banned hand­shakes dur­ing the “sign of peace” as a mea­sure of pre­cau­tion.

And then what? God knows. Seal up your doors? Only eat tinned food? Buy and wear a haz­mat suit? I don’t know, I’m not a doc­tor.

This isn’t very re­as­sur­ing. You’re such a snowflake. It’s just a bit of man flu. You might only die from it a bit.

Do say: “If you think you’ve got Aus­tralian flu, for God’s sake, stay at home.”

Don’t say: “This is the worst Aus­tralian ex­port since Fos­ter’s.”

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