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CURRENT news of the deadly coronavirus has struck fear amongst us. It’s like SARS, Zika, H1N1 and avian flu etc. all over again. It has made us seriously re-consider our travel plans by postponing it or cancelling it all together. We even have second thoughts about going out to crowded places like the malls and cinemas. This is a real bummer, happening at a time when it’s one of the biggest festival periods where people go out to be with other people.

It hasn’t helped that all sorts of information are flooding our lines of communication — messages that get repeated on various chats and social media. It has been a hot topic for the last few weeks.

Many of us would’ve seen videos of people eating exotic animals (attributed to this epidemic), to reading write-ups on home remedies, like chewing a few peppercorns a day and drinking certain concoctions, that may help build up your immunity.

While some of these forwarded messages offer good, common sense advice, many are quite dubious, if not downright sensational. But being social beings that we are, we get easily excited and quite trigger-happy to share these juicy and seemingly informative pieces no matter how illogical or ridiculous it sounds.

There seems to be a race on who can get the information out first. Everybody wants to be a reporter. Unfortunately they forget the basic rule and responsibility of disseminating information: check and verify your sources!

Before we get paranoid and paralysed by unfounded fears, learn a bit more about what’s going on. Seek reliable sources on the Internet for information. Don’t always be so quick to believe everything you read that isn’t information issued by trustworthy sources.

As a caregiver, you’d need to be able to navigate through these challenges by checking with your doctors what’s best for you and your loved one. Influenza (flu) in itself, no matter the type, can be damaging to someone whose health is already challenged. So imagine the type of flu that’s a new mutation for which there’s no vaccine.

You’d want to protect you loved one as much as you can. Anyone with any major illness whose immunity is weak like cancer, those on haemodialysis, the elderly and very young children (infants and toddlers), are all susceptible to infection.

PERILS OF THE FLU

I still can’t forget how the flu brought my father down just before surgery and he wasn’t strong enough to fight it off. It cost him his life. He battled it and the complications it wreaked for two months, and lost.

Flu weakens you. The virus is spread by air from coughs and sneezes, and can be spread by touching surfaces contaminated by the virus and then touching the mouth or eyes. Normal, healthy adults can bounce back to health within the week. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for those with weakened conditions because the flu can cause complications that lead to bronchitis, pneumonia, sinus infections and worsen the conditions of those with asthma and heart diseases.

Flu should be taken seriously because it’s caused by virus and is infectious. Because it isn’t caused by bacteria, you can’t use antibiotics to fight it. You just need to let it run its full course and ensure you don’t get secondary infections like bronchitis or pneumonia.

KNOW THE DIFFERENCE

Getting your annual flu vaccines may help to some extent, but this is usually effective against three or four types of influenza. This means that even if you’ve had your flu jabs in the last few months, you’re still not protected against other types of flu viruses like the coronavirus.

The symptoms between a common cold and flu may be similar; the difference is that the flu is usually accompanied by high fever. While you may be able to cope with home remedies to alleviate the symptoms and discomfort, it’s always a good idea to see a doctor to be sure.

Flu symptoms can be mild to severe, which includes high fever, runny nose, sore throat, headache, burning eyes, fatigue and achy joints. It can last for a week. In children, there may be vomiting and diarrhoea, but that could be a different type of flu.

At times like this, those with flu should stay home to rest and recover. Isolating yourself for the first few days would also prevent you spreading it to others. Some people feel that working out at the gym would make them better, faster. It doesn’t. Just rest and take it easy.

Among good habits to maintain at all times, and especially during the flu season, is to frequently wash your hands with soap to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Wearing a surgical mask is also useful.

[The opinions expressed here are entirely the writer’s own, and not meant as a diagnosis. When in doubt, consult your doctor.]

Putri Juneita Johari volunteers for the Special Children Society of Ampang (SCSOA). She can be reached at [email protected].

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