I considered staying away from the Spraoi Festival this year. One of my very favourite weekends of the whole year and I couldn’t quash a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach that I’d be better off at home. I was willing to forego a fantastic three days of free street entertainment (and deprive my little boy of his first proper Spraoi experience) because – wait for it – I was terrified that one of us would catch swine flu. I never thought misplaced mucous could have such an impact on my way of thinking.
I didn’t stay away from Spraoi, by the way. And the slightly smaller crowds than previous years meant getting around with a buggy was far more feasible than usual so we were able to roam relatively freely and catch a range of world-class entertainment. In a time of such desperate gloom, we are truly blessed in this city to have the Spraoi team, such wonderful proponents of the arts and family fun. And I can’t let the opportunity go by without mentioning the company’s stalwart body of volunteers who braved the elements on both Friday and Sunday without a visible grumble. Me, on the other hand? I glared aggressively and moved swiftly away from anyone who brandished a hanky or dared to sneeze in my vicinity on more than one occasion at the weekend.
But back to that mucous. Now I managed to put it to the back of my mind during the Spraoi festivities but I remain overwhelmed by the widespread panic and media attention instigated by the swine flu epidemic. I can’t help it, every time I hear someone sneeze I want to put my (antibacterial handwash -scrubbed) hand in front of my child’s mouth to protect him from potential germs. So much so that I came exceptionally close to purchasing my own ‘swine flu kit’ last week.
Now available from BP Medical Supplies on Amazon for €25, the kit includes respirator masks for all the family, a pair of safety goggles and a disposable white coverall, pairs of high risk nitryl gloves, a hand sanitizer, antimicrobial hand wipes, alcohol prep wipes, blue elasticized shoe covers, and head caps. Twould also come in quite handy if we fancied acting out some scenes from ET at home, I suppose.
I didn’t go ahead and buy the kit, reason and sanity pulled my hand back from clicking on that ‘purchase’ icon. But I still find myself compelled to read every article I come across on the swine flu and one of them recently – against the grain – highlighted what a money spinner the epidemic has been for certain industries.
Perhaps one of the most written-about risk groups with regard to swine flu is pregnant women so it was predictable enough that companies saw the potential profits to be made from this group of society.
In the UK, the Zita West Clinic for pregnant women is offering 15-minute phone consultations for those worried about swine flu, at a cost of £45. The consultation, or personal appointment, focuses on lifestyle advice such as how to handle stress, get enough sleep and use probiotics. A vitamin D test is available for an additional £30. Another company is offering a pandemic influenza management scheme, for £49 plus VAT. For that, you get an online medical screening, a prescription and a course of antivirals (most likely Tamiflu, since the company says that it is stockpiling the same drugs as the Government).
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) expects to report a bumper balance sheet for the first half of the year. It manufactures Relenza, an inhaled alternative, suitable for pregnant women, as well as antiviral masks expected to be used widely by healthcare workers during a predicted autumn resurgence.
Meanwhile there is renewed vigour in the sales of vitamin pills, food supplements and other items that supposedly reduce the risk of catching swine flu and many pharmacists say they can’t keep thermometers on the shelves, given that swine flu appears be diagnosed primarily on the basis of a fever.
Marketing Week magazine reported that when the Government launched its swine flu public information campaign – with the slogan “catch it, bin it, kill it” – sales of Kleenex hygiene kits rose tenfold. The kits comprise two packs of antiviral tissues plus an antibacterial handfoam. Other soap producers are reporting substantial rises in pre-tax profits for this year, so obsessed are we all becoming with hand hygiene.
One thing’s for sure – the panic and hysteria over swine flu has spread far quicker than the virus itself. For now, I think I’ll keep my money in my purse and just take a deep breath and relax. But maybe not before I put on my face mask.