THE Swine Flu (H1N1) virus began as an isolated outbreak in Mexico in April this year, rapidly spreading to surrounding Latin American countries such as Argentina and Chile, finally reaching the United States and Canada, as well as parts of Europe and Asia in no time at all.
One can almost be forgiven at the time of the outbreak for thinking of swine flu as a remote crisis, affecting people in another part of the world that we had never been to before.
After all, Mexico the source of the outbreak is several thousands of miles away from here.
However, Botswana was in for a when in slightly over four months, the Ministry of Health (MoH) reported a number of cases of swine flu. The once ‘remote’ virus is now in our very own backyard!
Several cases of swine flu have also been reported in the neighbouring countries of South Africa and Zimbabwe and as far afield as Egypt.
The quick spread of swine flu shows how globalised the world has become. One should have learnt this lesson last year following the recession that hit America’s Wall Street markets dropping the world onto its knees.
Swine flu has become more than just an influenza outbreak. It has evolved into a real global affair. This by no means is an attempt to undermine other similar pandemics that have broken out in the past, but this is equally massive.
The symptoms of nausea, vomiting, pain in the joints and excessive fever temperatures that characterise swine flu are those that nobody would like to be caught with on any given day.
Believe it or not, swine flu is rapidly reshaping our lifestyles and habits in the same way as HIV/AIDS has called for a revision of people’s sexual habits bringing a focus on issues of fidelity. For starters, people are increasingly shunning physical contact in the form of handshakes as these are perceived by health officials to be the surest way of transmitting swine flu from one person to another.
Secondly, large gatherings such as those in churches and public places is a big ‘NO, NO’ as swine flu just might be lurking nearby within such a large group of people. It could almost be taken for granted that swine flu is threatening our basic human interactions and relationships with friends, family and colleagues.
What of those lovebirds who cannot afford to meet each other anywhere except in the house of worship? Imagine the ensuing dilemma of having to break up because of the fear of catching swine flu at church.
The World Health Organisation WHO has urged countries to maintain vigilance and to be alert at abating the spread of the virus saying “the focus now should be on a quick response to severe outbreaks to minimise impact, rather than on attempting to halt the growth of the virus”.
So while one might be fortunate to not have contracted swine flu, the quick responses being encouraged by WHO will see a need for a change in lifestyles. That is just how the world has become one big global family!