Knowledge will protect us

In less than four days, the world has learned a new ’flu virus is on the march across the planet. And like several of its predecessor strains, this particular virus has caught the attention of health officials in every country.
I walked into the Fort Frances Community Clinic on Monday afternoon and Barb Thomson met me at the door with a hand antiseptic and an optional face mask. A couple of people in the waiting room were wearing masks.
The ’flu might not be in Fort Frances, but our local clinic was taking no chances.
History has taught the world that ’flu can be a deadly killer. Understanding that, countries keep a healthy watch out for new strains.
Here in Canada, 60 million doses of anti-viral medicine have been prepared for such an emergency. Without the SARS scare a few years ago, the attention to this swine ’flu strain would not be taking place.
The world learned from SARS that influenza could spread rapidly from human to human.
The Spanish ’flu of 1918 killed more than 50 million worldwide. Another epidemic in 1957-’58 killed one-two million worldwide while the 1968-’69 Hong Kong ’flu epidemic claimed some 700,000 lives around the globe.
The world has learned a great deal since the SARS outbreak to reduce the spread of ’flu. Simple things like avoiding close contact with people who are sick, staying home when you are sick, and covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough and sneeze all work.
Perhaps the most efficient way of protecting one’s self is by washing your hands with soap and water more frequently, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth after touching someone else.
Anything that eliminates that human-to-human contact will make it more difficult for the disease to spread.
The government, following the SARS outbreak, established a set of protocols to deal with future. It begins with monitoring ’flu outbreaks around the world (which is why today we hear of every avian ’flu outbreak).
The government then tracks the progress of those strains as they spread out from their originating country. When the disease moves rapidly from one country to another, citizens around the world are warned by their health departments to exercise care.
The health departments also provide additional information to the public to make them aware of the problem, as well as symptom information.
Governments around the world have taken steps to protect their citizens. Some countries, including Canada, have issued travel warnings to their citizens. In Mexico, the government recommended all church services in the country be cancelled this past Sunday.
People travelling through Pearson International Airport in Toronto this week will see workers wearing masks and latex gloves as a precaution. At the US border, Homeland Security personnel also are screening people entering the country to see if they have been in contact with persons who have travelled to Mexico recently or who exhibit ’flu-like symptoms.
Knowledge will protect us. The governments of Ontario and Canada are working to protect us.

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