Wallowing in swine flu data

Disclaimer: I have not been tested for or officially confirmed to have the swine flu. When I asked my doctor if I had it, he answered: Probably.


My head is spinning and it’s not all from Tamiflu and antibiotics. Trying to get solid information about this year’s H1N1 pandemic is enough to make you just want to curl up under the covers and wait for spring.

  • Are vaccines bad or good? Should we get them or not?
  • We are encouraged to get our vaccinations now. However, clinics are either canceled or have hopelessly long waits.
  • The president declared a national emergency. News reports focus on the lethal H1N1 cases, particularly children. Some doctors I have encountered seem very unconcerned about what kind of flu they are treating, only that they must treat it.
  • At what point does hand washing become excessive and in the territory of OCD? At what point do you decide that the excessive hand washing you engaged in did absolutely no good to prevent the flu since all you needed to get sick was to breathe the air inside your home?
  • Is there a link between worrying excessively about getting H1N1, rubbing your hands raw with alcohol-laden hand sanitizer to the point of extreme irritation, and actually contracting it?

On Friday, as I sat slumped in a metal and plastic chair at the medical clinic, with my Girl from the East draped over my lap like a towel, I asked the doctor if we had H1N1.

“Seasonal flu, H1N1, what difference does it make?” he responded.

At first I was taken aback. This is the second time I’ve been greeted with a blase attitude by the medical community about the swine flu. Last summer, Girl from the West attended music camp. One week later,  some orchestra members from that camp came down with the flu. They were not allowed to board their flight to Europe because of it. When my daughter became ill and I took her to the doctor’s office and inquired about swine flu, the doctor brushed it off as “just the flu.” Let it run its course, she advised.

What in hell is going on? If you watch TV, read online or in print, you are led to believe H1N1 is the Black Plague. Yet, all but ONE doctor I’ve asked has minimized the concerns.  I’ll admit, I’ve allowed myself to be swept up in the media frenzy. I have kids. I worry about them more than myself.

So, when the doctor seemed blase about my H1N1 inquiry, I fired back:

“It’s all over the media. There is paranoia everywhere. It matters to me.”

“Well, then, yes, you probably do have H1N1,” he replied.

Then he handed me  prescriptions for Tamiflu and antibiotics for our secondary respiratory infections and sent us on our way.

My always-on-the-go husband has been in bed for six days with what started as the flu and quickly turned to bronchitis. Most likely, he waited too long to see a doctor. Based on this, I didn’t waste time.  I packed us into the car and headed to the doctor 24 hours after coming down with symptoms.

We had a long wait at the clinic.

We had an even longer wait at the pharmacy as Tamiflu is in short supply.

Know what I think? I stressed myself out so badly about getting H1N1 I trashed my immune system.

I suppose the lesson in all this is to take care of yourself, wash your hands, and if you do develop symptoms get to the doctor immediately.

If you are wondering how it’s affecting us: On Thursday I felt fine when I woke up. By noon I was knocked flat on my back with a 102 fever, chills and severe joint pain. Within 24 hours I’d developed a respiratory infection. My Girl from the East, despite a deep cough and a high fever, was bouncing around like a monkey. She had one rough night.

But the larger questions remain: What is the truth? Are some doctors downplaying this? If so, why? Is the media overplaying it? I’ve always believed in immunizations and I get a seasonal flu shot every year. I know it doesn’t protect me from everything, but it’s always kept me standing when everyone around me dropped like flies with whatever flu strain was going around.

So I guess I should be relieved. Now I don’t have to worry anymore about getting the flu shot. Plus, I had a whole weekend to do nothing but goof off on Facebook, Twitter and my favorite blogs.

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9 thoughts on “Wallowing in swine flu data

  1. Oh noes. I hope you and your girl feel better soon.

    My husband and I had the swine flu vax last Saturday. Winter here is over now so hopefully we’re in the clear. Knock on wood. The vaccine for kids under 10 is not yet available, our doctor advised us that it’s still being tested for safety. So we’ve got no choice but to wait.

    …and ooh thanks for adding me to your list.=)

  2. I know, right? It’s a media mess. And yet, there are still people out there like my neighbor who said her son had a fever and a sore throat but since he wasn’t throwing up, he didn’t have the flu. We know what she’s been reading/watching….NOTHING. Hello? Cozy under your rock?

    It seems to me to be totally random, which is why the reports are so schizophrenic. Some people get really sick, some get better with a little rest and Motrin. My other neighbor is a Infectious Disease doctor. He says get the vaccine if you can get it. We can’t seem to get it…but we’ll keep calling. Feel better soon.

  3. Small Town: You are right about the random part. My husband just donated money to a fundraiser for a young woman who was on a ventilator with complications from the swine flu. She has a 9-month-old baby. I talked to another mother who thought the high risk group was six months to 12 months of age ONLY. She misunderstood. It’s 24 years not months.

  4. MomZombie,

    Found your blog from Tanya’s IShouldBeNapping.com site and read this post. Very refreshing to read some sanity about this whole swine flu. My wife is nurse and gives shots, when they have vaccinations on hand, which is rare. So I hear some crazy stories of irrational people. Keep up the the good work, I’ll be back to read more.

    Take a look at my site toptenz.net and see if you are interested in doing some writing for me. Tanya can tell you all about it. 😉

  5. The Media seems to latch onto anything newsworthy about H1N1 (and by newsworthy I mean panic inducing). First we wouldn’t have the vaccine in time, then we had so much vaccine here in Canada that we were giving some to the US, then no one was getting the vaccine, and now apparently we don’t have enough vaccine to go around… The CBC filmed the line up at the clinic I went to yesterday morning (30 minutes before it opened there was about 130 people in line – I know because I was #124 and I was near the end). Once the clinic opened its doors at noon it took about 20 minutes for us to get inside. There was no line up when I left and no line up when my husband went to get his shot at 4:00pm, yet the 6:00 news reported mass line ups all over the city and used footage from the clinic we visited. If I hadn’t succumbed to panic as a result of the weekend news warning me that there would be big line ups all week and that they might run out of the vaccine, I wouldn’t have had to wait outside (in the rain!) with my 2 1/2 year old and 1 month old daughters for almost an hour.

    I wish the news had spent that time informing us that the seasonal flu shot would be offered at the same time instead, so that I would have been ready to make this decision for me and my little girls ahead of time. Or they could have explained how the clinics were set up so that attendees knew what to do when they got there. You know, some helpful NEWS…

  6. Sorry you have the H1N1 – as you know we too “probably have H1N1” over at the case de’zombie. After three hours in the clinic-that was the diagnosis for the kids. I have been pretty blase about the whole thing-in that I haven’t given H1N1 a whole lot more worry than the regular flu. The flu kills people – a lot of people – each year. I know the profile of who is dying is different. As an asthmatic, I always have to keep an eye out for flu complications.

    As a lifelong hypochondriac I am not sure what I am relatively unworried about this flu. I mean I worry in that my kids feel hellatious. I work in migrant health and many of my colleagues have been sick with H1N1 around the first outbreak and I saw each of them recover too- perhaps I take refuge in that comfort.

    And quite honestly, other than the duration of this, its pretty much like any nasty flu it just combines the respiratory and the gastro-intestinal with profound misery in both kids to make it a messier and more sleep depriving bug than usual.

    So, no panic here. Just hopes that everyone who gets it recovers well and safely.

  7. Late to the party as usual!

    I hope everyone at Casa Mom Zombie is feeling better. For myself, I got the seasonal flu shot like I do every year. Badger’s ped’s office had the FluMist for H1N1 so he got that and a seasonal shot. Generally, he’s got an immune system like a pack mule, but since he just started in the public school I thought I’d take the extra precaution.

    Honestly? If we could get those mist things for EVERYTHING that’s what I’d prefer. Totally low-key, no screeching like the shot. In the interest of full disclosure, he did come down with a slight runny nose and 24 hours of low-grade fever, but who knows if it was a coincidence or from the mist.

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