[Letters] Are we safe from H1N1 flu?

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[Letters] Are we safe from H1N1 flu?

The spread of the H1N1 flu virus has now become a global pandemic. However, most countries, including Korea, seem to have become less alert about the dangers of the flu because it has not spread widely outside of the Americas. The fact that the government reported the first two deaths from the flu in Korea this weekend, shows that we need to be more vigilant about the virus’s spread.

I believe that we may be faced with an even worse spread of the virus in the coming months, since flu viruses last longer when the air is cold and dry. Thus, before we face a worse situation in the winter, public awareness should be strengthened to limit the spread of the influenza.

First, cooperation at the international level is required to deal with the global pandemic. As we provided Mexico with relief supplies, such as masks and thermometers when they were struggling with the flu, we should provide assistance to developing countries struggling with the virus as much as possible. Also, efforts to make vaccines should be expedited because the virus is spreading faster than ever. Once the vaccine is produced, it should be distributed to the least developed countries that do not have the ability to make vaccines either for free or at a lower price since otherwise the countries might not be able to afford it.

Secondly, Korea’s quarantine system should be improved. This is a system in which a quarantine officer monitors arriving passengers with thermal scanners and picks out people whose temperatures are higher than 38 degrees for further examinations.

However, this system cannot detect all infected people since they may be in the incubation period of the disease and have a normal temperature. To solve this problem, I think the system should be used when passengers are both arriving and departing, instead of just arriving. This way, we can prevent an infected person from boarding an airplane and spreading the virus to other passengers.

Lastly, education should be reinforced to raise public awareness. Currently many people do not take the flu seriously. For example, I frequently hear news reports of flu-related statistics that do not mention specific measures to tackle the issue.

An effective solution for this problem is for the media to provide specific guidelines on how to prevent infections. For instance, people should be informed about the effectiveness of wearing a mask and concrete information on how it can be worn continuously for between 8 and 10 hours, but must be replaced once it is taken off.

The media can also broadcast public awareness advertisements, similar to anti-smoking ads.

In addition, the government and public should launch campaigns like the hand washing campaign in Singapore which emphasize the importance of hygiene in preventing the spread of viruses.

In conclusion, I suggest international efforts, reforms of the current system of detection and an increase of public awareness through the media to promote a healthier environment on the domestic and global level.

Eom Jee-young, senior at Bundang Daejin High School
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