Academic journal article Journal of Psychosocial Research

Psychological Responses to Influenza A, H1N1 ("Swine Flu") in India

Academic journal article Journal of Psychosocial Research

Psychological Responses to Influenza A, H1N1 ("Swine Flu") in India

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

A pandemic puts all of humanity under threat. There is a common belief that influenza pandemic is not only inevitable, but that it is imminent. The figures of death and destruction caused by pandemics are alarming. In 2009, H1N1 infected more than a million people around the world, wiping out more than 18,000 of the world's population (Jha, 2011). According to WHO, "A pandemic is a global disease outbreak. A flu pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges for which people have little or no immunity and for which there is no vaccine. The disease spreads easily person-to-person, causes serious illness, and can sweep across the country and around the world in very short time." During the 19th century, cholera in India and the Spanish flu in Europe, small pox across the globe and bubonic plague together caused the loss of around 550 million lives. Pandemics result in more loss of lives than wars. Fewer people were killed in World War 1 than by the Spanish flu. While some pandemics strike us once in a while, others occur all of the time, e.g. AIDS. AIDS has caused more deaths and human suffering than one single incident of pandemic (Glasier, Gülme zoglu, Schmid, Moreno and Van Look, 2006).

Pandemics bring chaos, confusion and social disruption. They affect every aspect of our lives. They stretch our medical and essential services to the limit. Economic fallout due to pandemics is catastrophic. Share indices fall, businesses come to a standstill, there is a loss of revenue, and recessions occur that cause GDPs to fall. Furthermore, tourism, entertainment services, management of hospitals, and educational institutions and, last but not least, there is an escalation in the cost of living. These consequences on pandemic sufferers are serious but another equally serious consequence of pandemics is the serious psychological impact on the affected individuals, their families, friends and doctors and nurses attending to the victims.

In 2003, Robert reported that SARS victims suffered from fear, loneliness, boredom, anger, and were worried about the effects of quarantine and whether the contagious nature of the disease would spread to their loved ones. He also found that SARS victims experienced fever, insomnia and other serious consequences. Cheng, Wong, Tsang, and Wong, 2004 wrote that the victims of SARS in China and Hong Kong had acute fear of death, social stigma and suffered from physical disabilities. A similar study done by Wu, Chan and Ma, 2005 on SARS victims revealed that 10% to 18% suffered from symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), severe anxiety and chronic depression. Lee, Chi, Chung, and Chou, 2006 found that older victims experienced greater adverse psychological effects than younger victims. Grainne and Siew, 2007 referred to some of the common problems that most SARS victims displayed, namely fatigue, poor sleep, worries about health, and fear of social ostracisation. Lau, Chai & Cummins, 2008 confirmed that elderly victims of SARS had negative perceptions of their health. Reynolds, Garay, Deamond, Moran, Gold and Styra, 2008 reported that healthcare workers in Canada experienced distress, including symptoms of PTSD. Lancee(2008) assessed Toronto hospital workers during a SARS outbreak in Canada. They concluded that healthcare workers attending SARS patients suffered from symptoms of depression, anxiety and indulged in "substance abuse" such as consuming excessive amounts of drugs and alcohol. Yip, Cheung, Chau, and Law(2010) in a study undertaken in Hong Kong stated that some SARS victims experienced suicidal tendencies as they did not want to be a burden on their families. The authors have also looked at studies on HIV/AIDS and found that the psychological effects were similar to those of SARS. For example, a South African study on HIV/AIDS found that HIV/AIDS victims were subjected to extreme social discrimination. Remein et al. (2007)studied long term psychosocial challenges experienced by HIV/AIDS victims. …

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