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When politics and medicine meet…

We approach autumn and are told to expect a freshers’ flu unlike any other. Impact itself has touched on the issue over the holidays, firstly to report on the initial outbreak in Nottingham and then to cover a small outbreak among Nottingham students in Kenya. Kenya’s response, according to one broadcaster, was to shrug its shoulders. A recent cholera outbreak – along with the constant burden of HIV/AIDs – evidently put a few cases of mild seasonal flu into perspective.

On the contrary, we now look forward to the damage caused by our government’s panic. A study by the Health Protection Agency has found that more than half of children who take Tamiflu have experienced nightmares, nausea or other side effects. With a little cursory research we find that this drug was banned by Japanese authorities as early as 2007 because of the effect it is known to have on young people. The Guardian has reported that flu experts initially advised that the best course of treatment would be paracetemol, but the government wished to justify its purchase of so many antiviral doses.

Then, in mid-August, a leaked Health Protection Agency letter suggested a link between the swine flu vaccine and Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a nerve disease which causes paralysis and potentially death.

We’re at the point where both our treatments and our preventative measures could inflict more damage than the flu due to political – not medical – priorities. You can use a sledgehammer to crack a nut, but chances are you will damage the table underneath.

Dave Jackson

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