Monday, August 17, 2009

Swine Flu in a "Third World" Country--The Semi Geek's opinion 1

The country is under siege. Swine flu is in full swing. So far, 40 confirmed cases and already 5 dead. Is the situation being managed correctly? I think not.
Doctors and school professionals have made a civilized request to the authorities to close all schools down for two weeks. The Minister of Education said on the radio this morning that closing down schools for any length of time would deprive children of "knowledge". Is it better to deprive them of health and let's exaggerate a bit, LIFE? When there's no life, what good is education and knowledge?
In the afternoon, the Prime Minister chaired a "high-powered committee" meeting for nearly three hours, after which he gave a press conference to announce that they were not to give in to panic and close down schools. Needless to say, the public, especially parents of young children, is angry.
I admit this may not be the solution to the problem. But isn't it worth a try? If schools were to close for a few days, that would reduce the extent of "human agglomeration" in buses, in schools and other public places where students tend to hang out before and after school. Let's look at the other side of the coin. I was at the supermarket to get a few essentials yesterday. Some parents who had decided to keep their kids from school were going around the supermarket, exposing them to the virus. Where is the logic? Is there any logic?
Let's go back a week. It was then a question of "to wear or not to wear the mask". The authorities were dead against wearing the mask. The reason was that WHO didn't think the mask would help in any way prevent the disease from spreading! One government doctor even said he "didn't want to see anyone but doctors and nurses wearing the mask, not the gardener or the cleaning staff". I'm amazed they didn't amend the law for it!
Since yesterday, masks were being distributed in schools. Wearing a mask is now obligatory whenever a case is suspected! Logic? I think not! I think there was a shortage of masks in the country last week.
Now let's go to the Tamiflu issue. This is a whole thing in itself. The stock currently available is due to expire in November 2009--if I recall correctly. The Minister of Health recently announced that the expiry date has been extended by two years. The current stock can be used until 2011. The people started an uproar. How is this possible? Are they trying to poison us? This will create precedents, etc... etc... My opinion has a(n ex-)pharmaceutical professional is, if a sample of our local stock has been analyzed and tested by the mother company (Roche), it is possible that they extended the expiry date of the product. But, it is important to verify that individual pharmacies are storing their stocks in appropriate conditions--away from light, moisture and high temperatures. This would be the duty of the Pharmaceutical Division of the Ministry of Health. Now a pharmacist comes on the radio and announces that it is perfectly normal to extend the expiry date of a product by 2 years (so far I agree) if--to this I do not agree--there is more than 90% of active drug in the product. This is not the only criterium required. The product should undergo and pass all the tests in the monograph. And he goes on to add that if there's less than 75%, the expiry date can be extended by 1 year and if less than 50%, by 3 months. Now that's the most stupid thing I've ever heard said in my whole entire life! How can a product containing less than 50% be allowed on the market, never mind allowing an extension of the expiry date?
Are we idiots or are they? Or are they just taking us for idiots? Whatever it is, this whole situation is sickening.
Let's pray the decision of the authorities not to close down schools doesn't have devastating effects on the youngsters of the country. And let's hope this decision was taken because it was the right one, not because it's contrary to what the syndicates and other bodies were asking. Now, that would be really, really stupid!