When I was much younger, they told me that pigs cannot fly.
Well, we now have Swine Flew.
The WHO has just raised the alert level to Phase 5 now, meaning that there has been human-to-human outbreaks in two countries and that a global pandemic is imminent.
The Spanish Flu (as opposed to Spanish Fly) outbreak in 1918 killed more than 18 million people worldwide, but I remember it was called the Spanish Flu epidemic. So, when was this epidemic term changed to pandemic?
Well, a pandemic is usually referred to a disease that is prevalent throughout an entire country, continent or the whole world; an epidemic refers to the appearance of a disease in a large number of people at the same time. A pandemic is used to indicate a far higher number of people affected than in epidemic, where the outbreak covers a much larger area. An epidemic is used in cases where more cases than normally expected appears in an area. Most of the time they are localised, but in some cases they do appear in other pockets as well.
If you ask me, the usage depends on how much scare do they want to instill in people, and which newspaper wants more sensational news. Epidemic used to be the scare of times; you never hear of the word anymore. AIDS was an epidemic, and in the end too much scare tactics have left people numb. So, up the scare-scale and call it a pandemic. Once, in the near future, people go about their lives nonchalantly, they will have to up the scale again and call it a megademic. The apex and mother of all scares would be apocademic.
I’ll just call it a disease that spreads like any other flu, with higher chance of death occuring than the normal flu. Then again, even the type of flu that is going around and have affected 5/6 of the people in my household is of a stronger strain than normal. Globalisation has brought about different cocktails of virus – Peach Margarita, Strawberry Margarita…all Margaritas.
I wonder if an organ donor dies of the Swine Flu, would the organ bank use his/her organs?
Anyway, it would be interesting to refer to a medical book written by some Muslim scholars in India on what to do when faced with imminent death, organ donation, or even post-mortem. As books on Islam normally get banned if they are found to be misleading, this book is still on the bookshelves of some of the more famous bookstores of Kuala Lumpur. The book is called Contemporary Medical Issues In Islamic Jurisprudence, edited by Qazi Mujahidul Islam Qasmi of India. This book is a compilation of discussion papers by a group of Muslim scholars at the first Fiqh (jurisprudence) seminar in New Delhi in April 1989. Of course, none of the scholars are qualified medical experts, and I doubt very much that any of them have even become a cleaner in a private clinic or a hospital.
In this book, a Mawlana (a Mawlana is a protector, from the root word wali. In Islam, only God is a wali, but of course, myopic extremists would also want someone divine to walk amongst them – we see this happening in Malaysia too where no one can say anything bad about an Ulama, a mere mortal, whom to them can do no wrong) from Mumbai called Shams Peerzadah presented his concern about bodies being mutilated after death for organs, and that bodies should be wholly intact for burial. He wrote:
Medical science should better attempt to do the miracle of transforming the soul of an ill person into the body of a healthy one, instead of raising a man beside a corpse, so the very need of transplantation of organs and mutilation of a dead body would not come across, and an entirely intact corpse may remain for burial. This controversy may be resolved this way so that its very basis would no more exist.
You get someone and regard him as an authority on religion, feeding you with hogwash like this, then this in itself becomes an epidemic – a mental epidemic; another swine in our midst.
For me, to avoid getting the Swine Flu is to get myself underwater – away from swines like the above.