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August 15, 2009

Swine Flu

It is mid-August and schools in Bombay, Pune and Bangalore and some other cities have shut down to avoid the spread of swine flu. People are wearing protective masks in public places. Many are staying home and wondering whether to stock N95 or Tamiflu. Will it turn into an epidemic in India? Are you in danger?

My friend Anita D sent me the following easy-to-follow note (I've tweaked it a bit.) Useful indeed !

Preventing Infection
Face masks and N95 respirators are for general protection against H1N. Most N95 respirators are designed to filter 95% particulates of 0.3µ, while the size of H1N1 virus is about 0.1µ. So dependence on N95 to protect against H1N1 is like protecting against rain with an umbrella made of mosquito net.

Tamiflu does not kill the infection, but prevents H1N1 from further proliferation till the virus limits itself in about 1-2 weeks (its natural cycle). H1N1, like other Influenza A viruses, only infects the upper respiratory tract and proliferates there. The only portals of entry are the nostrils and mouth/ throat.

Avoid Contact - Contact with H1N1 is dangerous. Avoid crowds, places with poor ventilation and people who are already affected.

But in a global epidemic of this nature, it's almost impossible not coming into contact with H1N1 at all. Then we have the problem of proliferation.

Preventing Proliferation

Suppose you are still healthy and not showing any symptoms of H1N1 infection. In order to prevent proliferation, aggravation of symptoms and development of secondary infections, some very simple steps can be practiced:

1. Frequent hand-washing is very important.

2. "Hands-off-the-face" approach. Resist all temptations to touch any part of face (unless you want to eat, bathe or slap).

3. Gargle twice a day with warm salt water (use Listerine if you don't trust salt).

4. Clean your nostrils at least once every day with warm salt water. Not everybody can do Jala Neti or Sutra Neti (Yoga asanas to clean nasal cavities), but blowing the nose hard once a day and swabbing both nostrils with cotton buds dipped in warm salt water is effective.

H1N1 takes some days after initial infection in the throat/ nasal cavity to proliferate and show characteristic symptoms. Simple gargling prevents proliferation. In a way, gargling with salt water has the same effect on a healthy individual that Tamiflu has on an infected one.

Don't underestimate #3 & #4 above... simple, inexpensive and powerful preventive methods.

5. Boost your natural immunity with foods that are rich in Vitamin C (Amla and other citrus fruits). If you have to supplement with Vitamin C tablets, make sure that it also has Zinc to boost absorption.

6. Drink as much of warm liquids as you can. Drinking warm liquids has the same effect as gargling, but in the reverse direction. They wash off proliferating viruses from the throat into the stomach where they cannot survive, proliferate or do any harm.

All these are easy ways of prevention, well within the means of your household. They are certainly much better than waiting in long queues outside public hospitals.

Happy breathing!

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1 comment:

Kenneth said...

Your suggestions on salt water gargling give hope.

Warm Regards,


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