The death count mounts on the H1NI highway and mask makers are making a killing. "It’s a pandemic," say some reports. "Panic," say others. With newspaper columns and television channels giving us a sneeze-by-sneeze account of the flu-spread, the fearful micro-organism has acquired celebrity status.

Several things should surprise us in this national event. As one medical practitioner said, “In a country where several people die of malaria and tuberculosis, how come HINI deaths get a daily tally?” Because of its “imported” tag? Also, do those porous masks really clean up the air we breathe in? (Most wear it over the mouth!).

More surprising are the remedies. Suggestions include yoga, cloves, Nilgiri (eucalyptus?) oil, turmeric and amla juice. One Ayurveda proponent said, “Avoid junk food and eat stuff that strengthens immunity. Modern eating habits and “white foods” (refined rice, sugar, maida and processed salt) reduce our ability to fight infections.” A wise guy suggested cleaning up public places till the flu passed.

And here’s one to top them. A study by Professor Bill Keevil, University of Southampton, presented to the Life Sciences World Summit in Beijing declared, “extensive use of copper in public places can help combat the spread of H1N1 flu.” Said Professor Keevil, “?copper surfaces may contribute to the number of control barriers able to reduce transmission of the virus.”

Used traditionally

Ha, that’s carrying laptops to Silicon Valley. Indians across the nation have traditionally used copper plates to place offerings, copper pots to store and drink water from, copper panchapatram to do their ritualistic prayers and worn copper bangles, bracelets and rings to ward off evil.

And they’ll tell you offhand: “the red metal has anti-bacterial properties.” They might frown if you told them the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has allowed the registration of anti-microbial copper alloys, thereby acknowledging the property of copper to kill harmful bacteria.

The study concluded: The H1N1 virus spreads mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing. Sometimes, people may be infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

Copper and copper alloy surfaces kill 99.9 per cent of bacteria within two hours, and continue to kill repeated contamination. Therefore, the use of copper touch surfaces in hospitals, educational institutions, public buildings, public transport and food preparation areas can reduce the spread of harmful infections.

Surfacing door handles, grab rails and bathroom fixtures, among others with copper will demonstrate reduced build-up and transfer of infectious pathogens.

Protective properties

Said Ajit Advani, Deputy Regional Director (Asia), International Copper Association, in an interview, “In India, we have known about the protective properties of copper since the Vedic ages. This has now been corroborated by modern science. Use of this wonder metal in public touch surfaces can go a long way in reducing the spread of infections such as influenza.”

“What we need is purified copper,” said Dr. Vishwanatha Sharma, well-known Ayurvaid. ‘In Kerala the year’s supply of boiled rice used to be prepared in copper vessels. Ganges water has always been stored in copper vessels and sold. Siddha medicines are prepared in copper containers.” He narrated this story. “In ’92 Dhirubhai Ambani invited me for consultation. I found this gleaming vessel on his bedside table and asked if it was gold. He said it was pure copper and he always drank water from it. He gave me some. The water tasted very sweet.”

Unani Practioner Khaleefathullah said, “If the copper utensil is made in the proper form it enhances the immunity of the medicine prepared in it.” He had a note of warning: “Exposure to copper in large doses is bound to affect our health.”

Time to look into old parans for the family heirlooms. Take them out, give them a “natural” wash with lemon / imli juice, salt and water and display them as “bacteria controllers”. By the way, is anyone selling copper masks?

Keep swine flu at bay

Wash your hands frequently.

Keep hands off the face.

Do not touch any part of your face except when you are bathing or washing.

Gargle twice a day patiently with warm salt water. Or use a mouthwash. This is a simple, inexpensive, powerful way to prevent proliferation of the virus in the nasal/throat cavity.

Get your yoga teacher to teach you nasal cleansing (Jala Netri / Sutra Neti). Can’t do it? Just wash the nostrils with warm salt water.

Improve your natural immunity with foods rich in vitamin C (Amla, citrus fruits).

Drink plenty of warm liquids (oh, for that light, aromatic, sugarless tea!) This washes down the virus population to the stomach where it cannot survive.

Do these regularly. Much better than waiting in long queues outside public hospitals.

Keywords: H1NIpandemicsneezeswine flu

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