You know the AH1N1 problem has struck home when your loved ones, colleagues and friends are hit by the influenza. There are already 67 fatalities and the likelihood is the figures will increase. A fellow editor is now being quarantined at home after a bout of bad flu but she is recovering at home. The workaholic MStar journalist is filing news from her home.
Last week, another editor from MStar, the Bahasa Malaysia portal of The Star, and his family were kept at home after his fever refused to come down. After checking at a hospital, it was relief to know that the fever was caused by viral infection and not AH1N1.
A colleague from the In Tech section was also a suspect after his son was confirmed an AH1N1 victim. But thank God, both have recovered. Two Penang reporters, covering the Permatang Pasir by-election, have now been quarantined.
The series of sickness affecting my colleagues have been worrying. A reporter at a business publication was confirmed a virus victim last week and the entire multi-media section was shut down. Newspaper offices are now making emergency plans of working from home if the situation worsens. Visitors to our office have been asked to clean their hands with hand sanitizer at the lobby reception before making their way to the various departments.
For reporters attending functions at crowded places, we have handed out facial masks for them but it is probably more difficult for reporters covering the hospital beat. It's an occupational hazard. I remembered when the Nipah Virus hit in 2000, many of us had to visit pig farms where thounsands of the sick animals were culled. Some reporters fell sick after a while.
The fear is that with summer over in Europe and the United States, the flu situation could worsen. The prediction is that millions could be infected soon, especially students who would be starting classes in schools and colleges. The latest issue of Time reported that in the US, the sheer size of the pandemic response has begun to hit home. Immunization has started in schools and nurses are even placed in some schools. Local health departments are preparing to enlist private sector doctors and nurses to aid the effort with plans to rent empty shoplots and reopening vacant schools for the worst case scenario.
Back in Malaysia, there are concerns that our people are not displaying self-discipline with people who are supposed to be quarantined supposedly going shopping instead, without consideration for the rest of us. We have to get used to the idea that this is serious and that politicians should not be worried with media reports of the AH1N1. It's not a question of keeping tourists away but a matter of taking the necessary steps to prevent ourselves from falling sick.