Swine Flu Hits Pandemic Level
The World Health Organization raised the alert level for H1N1 influenza to its highest possible level Thursday after an assessment by experts of the Geneva-based organization found the virus is spreading in a sustained way in communities in the eight most heavily hit countries-Australia, Britain, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, Spain and United States. What does the latest WHO’s warning mean for us in Indonesia? The swine threat of H1N1 influenza is so serious that the WHO raised its warning level from 5 to 6 – officially making the virus a pandemic, as the virus is now widely transmitted between humans, not only in Europe and the Americas, but also in our own backyard – Asia. There have been 28,774 infections reported in 74 countries, including 144 deaths, according to the WHO’s latest tally of laboratory-confirmed cases. But the real number of people with the disease is likely to run into the hundreds of thousands, as mild cases may not have been detected. The rise in status sends a clear message as to the need for a commonly-shared understanding among all elements in the Indonesian society – the government and the general public – as, unless key measures are immediately taken, the pandemic may soon hit Indonesia. H1N1 is the first global flu pandemic in 41 years: the Hong Kong flu in 1968 killed about 1 million people. Meanwhile, the ordinary flu kills about 250,000 to 500,000 people each year. The most effective preventive measure, which needs to be immediately taken, is tightening the scrutiny of incoming visitors from abroad at both seaports and airports across the country-especially for those coming from countries already hit by the pandemic. Other measures include restrictions in the movement of people, goods and services to and from the infected countries. To be prepared for the worst case scenario, the government needs to ensure Indonesia’s hospitals are ready for an attack of deadly virus by ensuring they have a more than-sufficient supply of the appropriate medicine. We do not want a repeat of the government’s slow response to the avian flu (H5N1) pandemic a few years ago, which has so far caused 126 deaths in Indonesia. A great nation is one that learns from its past mistakes.
Tags: Swine Flu , Pandemic , H1N1
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