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.

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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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