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Swine flu worries parents about travelling overseas

The swine flu scare has led to paediatricians being flooded with calls from parents travelling abroad with young children.

delhi Updated: Jun 14, 2009 01:42 IST
Sanchita Sharma

The swine flu scare has led to paediatricians being flooded with calls from parents travelling abroad with young children.

“People are wondering whether it’s safe to travel overseas with children. They want to know whether vaccination against flu or taking the anti-viral drug oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu) prevents infection. There is no vaccine or medicine that prevents influenza A (H1N1) infection, the anti-viral medicine is to treat infected people,” says Dr Subhash Arya, chairman, department of paediatrics and adolescent medicine, BLK Memorial Hospital, Delhi.

However, not many are cancelling their travel plans, “People want to take precautions. In long-haul flights, children are at an increased risk of infection from other viruses as well. It’s a risk people take when they travel with children,” Dr Arya says.

With popular summer destinations such as the US, Britain and South-East Asia being the centres of outbreak, there is need to be careful. In a ranking of 213 countries done by Britain’s Warwick Business School, Britain topped the list of countries at risk; closely followed by the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and South Korea.

Russia, Canada, Israel, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan were classified as being at extreme risk of a flu virus due to a variety of factors, such as dense populations, busy airports, high levels of tourism and urbanisation, reported the study released on Friday.

The World Health Organisation on Thursday declared Swine flu — that has infected 29,669 people and killed 145 since April — a pandemic.

India’s awareness levels about swine flu are high, if people panic mostly for a reason. Sumit Trivedi, 5, developed fever and a sore throat this week after spending a week in Chandigarh with his cousins from New York. Reading reports of swine flu prompted his mother Akanksha, 34, to immediately call a paediatrician.

Says Akanksha, “It turned out to be seasonal flu but I was frightened at the thought of my son being placed in quarantine in a government hospital for a week.”

As the seasonal flu outbreak continues, many children are reporting flu symptoms. “The current seasonal flu virus is causing the symptoms of cough and fever to persist for almost a week, instead of the usual four to five days. There’s no reason to worry, as apart from the extra days, the flu is not more virulent (deadly) than usual,” says professor H D S Sachdeva, senior paediatrician, Sitaram Bhartia Institute, New Delhi.

Dr Sachdeva adds, “Antibiotics aren’t needed. The symptoms can be treated to make the patient feel comfortable, and may include paracetamol or probiotics and oral rehydration solution.”