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劉廼強 | 8th Feb 2011 | China Daily (Hong Kong Edition) | (14 Reads)

I rarely catch the flu. Recently I did have a bout with it. This little ailment and the accompanying discomfort made me naturally more sensitive to the recent situation in town.

I found, to my amazement, that probably because of the prolonged cold weather it is no exaggeration that around one third to a half of the population has suffered from at least one episode of flu since some time around Christmas in 2010. According to news reports during the holiday, there were three flu patients hospitalized. One died. The situation will get worse after the lunar new year holiday with the resumption of classes at schools and people returning to work.

Throughout history, flu has been accepted as part of life. We all catch some kind of flu from time to time and some die of it. Probably around the turn of this century individual nomenclatures like H5N1 have become familiar terms. The avian flu virus has become elevated to something like a global scourge. No matter how much fuss the World Health Organization and the medical profession made out of it, there remains little we actually can do about it.

Let us face it, we cannot cure flu, and the much hyped Tamiflu is nothing more than overblown pharmaceutical public relation campaign. The time frame for effective intervention in the early stage of infection is very short. Afterwards all we can do is relieve some of its symptoms. Vaccination can only be directed against a few of the more common strains at a certain period, and can at most be elective and recommendable to infants and the elderly who are more susceptible to the disease and more vulnerable. Still we have to weigh the benefits against possible risks.

What I want to say is we have to face the fact that human beings are always liable to get sick and die. A healthy lifestyle, eating well, sleeping well and regular exercise will help. We will have to accept that there will always be among us various pathogens and the accompanying diseases, and deaths.

The advances in modern medical science have so far been unable to change this, and our public should not be brainwashed into the delusion of zero tolerance. We don’t like it, but we will have to live with it. Don’t blame anybody, not the doctors, and not the officials. Otherwise we will only end up with piles of outdated vaccines every year in the government warehouse.