Flu virus are you at risk? 

The Good Life Letter

Friday 30th September 2011

  • The newspapers are at it again - scaremongering
  • Could an old flu virus be the next killer flu bug?
  • How to enjoy a healthy autumn

Yep, autumn is definitely here!

A few weeks ago I told you about how I recognise the onset of autumn due to the piles of my neighbours' leaves infesting my lawn.

The true second portent of a russet coloured autumn is now here.

News of a major flu virus outbreak has just hit the streets...and that only EVER happens in autumn.

It's almost like every news desk in the country sees a bit of wind and rain, and the darkening nights then trots out the same old stuff.

The annual killer flu bug is about to be unleashed on the world.

If it's not from a pig herd in China, or a chicken in Thailand it will be from a meerkat in Madagascar!

This week the Daily Mail ran the headline 'Killer Flu to Grip Britain'; autumn is back then.

I popped into the paper shop to grab a pack of Polos before heading out on my daily dog walk...but I had to buy the paper just to find out what nonsense they were about to trot out.

When I got home I also looked on the web just to check a few facts, and wasn't surprised to find there were very few of them.

I was a little amused, though not surprised, that the online editor had watered the headline down to 'Over-65s be warned: Britain facing worst winter flu outbreak in years'.

Not as punchy, but also not a piece of pure scaremongering.

Mind you if the reason for the paper headline was to increase sales it did work, at least in my case!

The same old story...but a NEW old virus

A quick look back through the archive and it seems that these stories always arrive in the last few weeks of September, and are usually accompanied by a stark warning.

This time round it appears that an eminent virologist at St Bartholemew's hospital in London has identified that we are now more at risk from the standard winter flu virus.

He says this is because the swine & bird flu viruses were so prevalent in the last few years, that they have displaced the common version.

This old virus will now rise again and slaughter us in our thousands - so he says.

Hold on a minute, are we really to believe that a virus which has been around for twenty years has been on holiday whilst the other H1N1 types did their work?

Excuse me whilst I flabber my gast...but I don't think so. I think we will still be carrying our original anti-bodies to the prior strain.

These viruses co-exist and the prevalence in a society all depends on resistance and susceptibility.

The reason, we were told, that H1N1 was so deadly was because our bodies had never seen the like before and were going to be devastated by a these superbugs.

That wasn't our experience though was it; I never even had a sniffle...and I didn't have the blessed flu jab.

In addition to this, I have not had flu for over thirty years, of any type.

I am totally in agreement that the vulnerable or those with long histories of respiratory complaints should be protected with top up vaccines.

But, do we really need to make this much fuss every year?

There is always a winner from these stories though - mostly the drugs companies who ship in tonnes of vaccines for GP's to administer.

The cost to the NHS is eye-watering, and every spring we get the same news outlets starting the backlash.

"Paying a High Price for Swine Flu Scare" was the headline that the Mail ran last January where they expressed faux outrage about how ministers had misled us...

...this being the same newspaper which had claimed that "65,000 people could die [and] one in three would be infected".

I'm sorry if you think I have it in for the good folk at the Daily Mail because I don't. The fact is that every newspaper and TV programme was running the same rhetoric.

So called experts were being wheeled in interviews to express the latest shock figures about risk; news anchormen and leader writers went into an overdrive of hype (a hyper drive?)

When do we get real statistically valid and informed debate? When do we see real experts in their field being given airtime?

The answer is never, and that's because they don't have the ability to create a panic fuelled media storm.

They would tell us that most flu viruses have a very low level of risk - even the last outbreak of swine flu only caused death in 0.03% of cases worldwide.

Normal seasonal flu, if there is ever such a thing, has rates of around a third of this. Simple Ray maths says that I have a greater chance of winning the lottery than ending up stricken down.

I don't want to make light of the seriousness of flu as a disease whether it is 'swine', 'avian' or 'normal' - it is a killer and can cause widespread problems.

But once again I implore us all to keep a level of sanity about all this. Get the flu jab if we are at risk, eat sensibly and remain healthy over the winter months.

Rays recipe for a healthy autumn

Keep a stock of Manuka honey nearby, and a squeeze of lemon juice close to hand to help your body cope...and just get on with enjoying one of our countries most delightful seasons.

With fresh produce in abundance and nature painting the hedgerows in the most brilliant colour palette what is there not to enjoy about these few months.

Please don't let these irresponsible hacks force you into a sanitised bubble because you think shaking hands with the vicar puts you at risk.

We are old enough and wise enough to make our own, informed decisions - we don't need the scare tactics thank you very much.

Yours, as always





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