Preventing H1N1 (Swine Flu)

BY PRABHAKAR

Thanks to media hype about H1N1, I’ve received calls from several who trust me, to advise. The hype in media about the utility of face masks and N95 as a tool for general protection against H1N1 can’t be deplored enough. Today, a friend who listened wanted me to write down briefly what I advised so that he could tell others in similar words. Hence this short email to friends whom I have advised recently. Please realize that this is not an official advice, especially the one about face masks or N95.Most N95 respirators are designed to filter 95% particulates of 0.3µ, while the size of H1N1 virus is about 0.1µ. Hence, dependence on N95 to protect against H1N1 is like protecting against rain with an umbrella made of mosquito net.

Tamiflu does not kill but prevents H1N1 from further proliferation. H1N1, like other Influenza A viruses, only infects the upper respiratory tracts and proliferates (only) there. The only portals of entry are the nostrils and mouth/ throat. In a global epidemic of this nature, it’s almost impossible not coming into contact with H1N1 in spite of all precautions. Contact with H1N1 is not the problem but proliferation is.

While you are still healthy and not showing any symptoms of H1N1 infection , in order to prevent proliferation, aggravation of symptoms and development of secondary infections, some very simple steps — not fully highlighted in most official communications — can be practiced (instead of focusing on how to stock N95 or Tamiflu):

  1. Hand-washing (well highlighted in all official communications)
  2. “Hands-off-the-face” approach. Resist all temptations to touch any part of face (unless you want to eat, bathe or slap).
  3. Gargle twice a day with warm salt water (use Listerine if you don’t trust salt). H1N1 takes 2-3 days after initial infection in the throat to proliferate and show characteristic symptoms. Simple gargling prevents proliferation. In a way, gargling with salt water has the same effect on a healthy individual that Tamiflu has on an infected one. Don’t underestimate this simple, inexpensive and powerful preventative method.
  4. Similar to 3 above, clean your nostrils at least once every day with warm salt water. Not everybody may be good at Sutra Neti (a very good Yoga asana to clean the nasal cavities), but blowing the nose hard once a day and swabbing both nostrils with cotton buds dipped in warm salt water is very effective in bringing down viral population.

Happy breathing!

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