1. Let’s start with Mr Gufta. He’s had pain all night in the lower abdomen. The doctor says he needs stronger pain relief so he has prescribed thirty milligrams of morphine every four hours.
2. We’ve moved Mr Gill to an isolation room, as he has an infection in his respiratory trac. A new antibiotic may work so we are giving him a 600.milligram infusion of Clindamycin over a period of four hours.
3. Now, Mr Sawyer. We have to encourage bowel movement, so a laxative could be useful. He has one tablespoon of Metamucil – that’s a 15 milligrams – three times a day.
4. Right. Mr Thomas is on antibiotics for his skin infection. Cephalexin is in tablet form, to be taken with food 250 milligrams every six hours.
5. Lastly, Mr Cheong. Mr Cheong receives an injection of an antihistamine every eight hours – 10 milligrams of Dimotane each time. May be this will control his allergies.
A pandemic can start when these three conditions are met:
a new disease appears
the agent infects humans, causing serious illness
the agent spreads easily
Pandemics and Tamiflu
When someone who has flu sneezes nearby, you take tiny droplets of their saliva into your lungs. The droplets contain viruses that are looking for a new home. They get into your lungs and then into your blood, and can quickly take over your whole body, using it as a factory in which they can reproduce.
At any time, a deadly bacterium or a virus can become very successful and spread across the world, killing millions of human beings. When this happens it is called a 'pandemic'.
There was a pandemic in 1918. An influenza virus called H1N1, or 'Spanish flu', killed between 50 and 100 million people. More people died from H1N1 than were killed in the First World War.
A letter from a doctor in a military camp in 1918 describes the situation:
"It is only a few hours until death comes. It is horrible. We have been averaging about 100 deaths per day. We have lost many nurses and doctors. Special trains carry away the dead. For several days there were no coffins and the bodies piled up."
Since 1918, the HIN1 virus has mutated. Now there is a mutation called H5N1. When this mutation first appeared in China in 1996, there was a desperate search for a medicine to deal with it. The pharmaceutical company Roche came up with a drug called Tamiflu.
Tamiflu does not kill H5N1, but stops it making copies of itself. If given early enough, vaccinations of Tamiflu could perhaps save many lives. However, the virus will continue to mutate, and might become resistant to Tamiflu. The next mutation may already be with us by the time you're reading this!