The thing about working in the healthcare industry (in the past) or the pharmaceutical industry (as of currently) is that something as small or seemingly insignificant as a flu can hinder our work.

If you are a healthcare worker who handles patients on a daily basis, when you are sick, you risk endangering your patients who are mostly likely already immunocompromised. A flu can make your nose run, your head pound, but the same flu can kill your patients. You need to wear a mask, minimise contact, clean your hands even more frequently, or even absent yourself from work if you have to.

And that’s just the typical flu we are talking about. Now, let’s get down to the important topic.

Wait, don’t be gan cheong and say swine flu yet.

Because hey, it has been proven that this new Type A Influenza H1N1 strain of virus consists of genetic components from the avian, swine and human strains, and the origin of this hybrid has not even been established to be in the Sus domestica. If we don’t call it the avian flu (for obvious reasons), then we certainly should not call it the swine flu. The pigs are probably super offended by now, cursing and swearing Homo sapiens for our hasty accusation and irresponsible finger-pointing, oh so typical of us humans, while rolling themselves in cool mud in their sty. I was born in the year of the Pig and to be honest, I’m that little bit offended.  

So let’s us all wisen up and call it the Type A Influenza H1N1 virus like what WHO has advised. Whoever suggested the “Mexican flu” must have been a supporter of the Bush administration. Yeah, I know, the new term’s quite a mouthful and certainly does not roll off the tongue as easily as the word “swine”. But at least it is scientifically correct and only fair to the pigs.

For commoners like us working in pharmaceutical companies, the MOH website is becoming a staple. With the hospitals at the orange alert status, external parties like our clinical research team and the sales people are banned from entering the hospital for work purposes. The sales teams visit the doctors at hospitals and clinics every day and now that they are not welcomed, I wonder whether their sales would take a dip and who would take responsibility for not hitting targets.

However, honestly, I don’t care about them.

I care when I spend hours and even days sometimes planning my visits to the hospitals, negotiating with the study coordinators and even doctors’ secretaries for available days / timings, only to be outwitted by the damn flu, and all efforts go down the drain without as much as a second look. For me, it’s in reality not that much of a bother since I do not need to look through the patients’ case notes and can still get most of my work done via teleconference with the hospital staff. For my colleagues who need the case notes, they are hurriedly rushing to some of the hospitals who still permit business with us as usual, to do their work before they also put a big stop sign at their entrance.

I think that I’m actually pretty glad that I’ve a perfect excuse not to go to the hospitals because there is no way I’m going to wear that hideous mask which is not only to suffocate me to death before H1N1 can kill me, it is also going to mess up my makeup. Of course, safety is Number Uno and prevention is indeed better than cure, which means when the unfortunate time really comes, the sensibility in me is going to kick away that vanity in me and put that stupid mask on my face (if I could ever get my hands on one since they are all grabbed by kiasu and kiasi Singaporeans and completely sold out) even when temperatures soar as high as 33 freaking degrees Celsius on a typical Singapore afternoon and by the time I take that mask off, the lower part of my face is steamed.

That said, do stay safe, my friends – no, not asking you to use a condom. In the context of influenza, I seriously doubt that a condom over whichever part of your body would never suffice as an effective preventive measure – steer clear of coughing or sneezing individuals, see a doctor immediately if you have symptoms of a flu, wash hands like you have obsessive compulsive disorder, observe stringent hygiene, don’t be spastic and visit Mexico, and continue eating pork!


P.S. On a side note, haven’t the butchers been hollering about the drop in pork sales? I ate at a famous Japanese restaurant which serves Berkshire pork (black pig) last Thursday and it was full house.