Remember a month ago, maybe 2 months ago? H1N1, or Swine Flu as it was called back then was a hot topic on the news. Mexico was ground zero for the swine flu. The USA was not far behind, with plenty of cases of Swine Flu showing up in many US States. There were many deaths in both the USA and Mexico.
It didn’t take long, and “Swine Flu” was out of the headlines. Instead, the H1N1 Virus took over. It was the same thing, but the name was changed, reportedly because Pig Farmers complained and didn’t want their business to suffer because of the name, “Swine Flu.” So, instead, newspapers and TV news reports were reporting about H1N1 Virus, but it was still at the top of the headlines.
These days, though, when I watch foreign news channels like CNN or others, H1N1 is rarely a topic any longer. However, the virus has not gone away. In fact, it seems to be getting even more widespread. I still hear of occasional cases in the USA, as a matter of fact, another death was just reported in Washington State. Other states are reporting additional cases of the virus too. Idaho. Texas. Michigan too.
The thing that is worrisome in terms of life in the Philippines, though, is that the Virus has moved to the East. China has experienced more than 70 cases so far. How about this one… more than 1,000 cases of H1N1 in Australia!
The Philippines was one of the few H1N1 free countries in the early days of the Virus, but these days H1N1 seems to be spreading fast in the Philippines too. As a matter of fact, last week, when a Philippine Senator had a fever, causing her to cancel a hearing, rumors broke out that she had been striken with the dreaded virus.
Now, the Philippine Department of Education is even postponing classes in many Universities as a precaution toward stopping the spread of the H1N1 Virus. Feyma and I have laughed about it a bit, wondering why University classes would be suspended, but kids in Elementary and High School have a full class schedule! Are University aged students more worth of protection from the virus compared to their younger siblings?
Latest statistics show that there have been 33 reported cases of H1N1 in the Philippines to date. So, I am wondering, why has world news coverage of this virus gone way down? It is still affecting the First World, and is now spreading into locations that had no such outbreak before. To me, this would tend to indicate that the virus is spreading much faster than it was a month or so ago. So, why is it being under reported now compared to 4 or 6 weeks ago? Was it just the hot topic of the day when the outbreak first occurred, and now it’s old news? That is my bet. But, if this thing is spreading like wildfire, and still causing deaths, this old news could turn into disaster.
In a place like the Philippines where people live in very close quarters, where animals are cramped in very near to the family, this swin flu could indeed become a disaster.
Precautions are being put into place in the Philippines. A largely Catholic country, some of the measures are somewhat unbelievable to me. At some Churches, hand holding during the ceremony has been banned. The Archbishop of Manila issued an order that Communion is to be given only hand to hand; no hand to mouth contact is now allowed during the Communion sacrament.
The truth is that a lot of people in the Philippines are very scared of this virus, and rightly so. For a long time, way before the virus had been reported in the Philippines, I already saw people wearing masks in public. Remember, the SARS Virus and the Bird Flu were widespread in Asia over the past few years. On both of those viruses, the Philippines was spared. However, on the H1N1, the Philippines is now the hardest hit nation in SE Asia. So, it is right to take precautions at this point.
What can you tell me? If you are in the USA or maybe in Europe, is this virus still in the news where you are? Or, as I have noted, has it kind of died down in the amount of coverage it is getting?
Update June 8, 2009, 10am Philippine Time: Philippine news just reported that six new cases of H1N1 have been confirmed in the Philippines, bringing the total number of cases to 39.
Update 2 June 8, 2009, 8pm Philippine Time: Seven more confirmed cases, 46 confirmed cases as of now.