swine flu and asthma

Last year there was the talk of swine flu being a scam put out by the pharma companies to get governments to buy up millions of shots of HINI vaccine. Why did 'only' 457 people die of the disease, when 65,000 fatalities had been predicted? What did the asthma guideline say? Why do we have 20 million unused shots of HINI vaccine? Actually, we are not big fans of conspiracy theories and I know, from talking to infectious diseases experts, how unpredictable viral illnesses, including the flu such as the swine flu, can be. Wouldn't you rather the vaccine was there - even if it's not needed, in the end - than have to worry about shortages?

I'm not at all surprised that swine flu has, sadly, already claimed the lives of 14 people in the last three months, according to the Health Protection Agency. Particularly concerning is the death of Kay Burdett, from Liverpool, who was being treated for asthma. Currently, there are around 300 people across the country who are in intensive care with flu complications (it's not known how many of these patients have swine flu).

If you suffer with asthma, you'll likely be well aware of the danger posed by flu and follow general asthma guidelines. In people with heart and lung conditions what is normally a mild (albeit miserable) illness can develop into serious, even life-threatening, pneumonia. Swine flu is no different. For most people, swine flu poses no real long-term threat to health. But people suffering from asthma are at risk of an asthma attack, just as they are from regular flu.

Dr. Mike Thomas, GP and Chief Medical Advisor to Asthma UK says 'We urge people with asthma to have the swine flu vaccine. Although swine flu is mild in most cases, people with asthma are at risk of serious breathing complications such as pneumonia if they do develop the illness.' So if you have been too busy to get your jab, don't delay. HINI vaccine is entirely safe for people with asthma. And, while it can't offer 100% protection, it will certainly help if you are exposed.

Don't just rely on the vaccine though. Simple hand hygiene goes a long way in protecting against colds and flu. As you probably know, the viruses are spread by droplets in coughs and sneezes. If you touch a surface that's contaminated by the flu virus, you are exposed to it. So wash the virus away often by washing your hands. Use tissues to catch a cough or sneeze. Sounds simple, I know (and I apologise for pointing it out because I am sure all of you reading this are well aware). But it's surprising how many people don't take these simple precautions, isn't it? Another easy way to protect yourself and the people around you at home and in your office is by using an asthma air purifier. The right air purifier will clean the air in a given room 2-3 times per hour and will filter out all viruses and bacteria. And if you already have a viral infection, why not consider staying indoors and stop spreading it about. You can always use this cold weather as an excuse for not venturing out.

Meanwhile, an expert from the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention warned that flu tends to move from West to East in Europe, so continental Europe may experience more cases of H1N1 in the months to come.