Monday, November 09, 2009

A Flu-ed Argument

Fiver's class has dropped like flies this week. On average, he has had about fourteen classmates absent each day, with no signs of the census increasing any time soon.

Wondering where all the children have gone, I kept hearing from parents and other teachers that "everyone is out with the swine flu."

Really? Every single one?

Then I got a call from my friend, whose son is in class with Fiver and has been one of the absentees this week. I asked her how her son was doing and she said, "Oh he's got the swine flu."

There it is again, that darn swine flu. And I started to get confused. (It's really not that hard for me, my friends).

Because here's the thing (at least in PA): Rob told me that doctors are not even testing for the swine flu. The only lab that is doing swine flu tests is the state lab, so unless their patient is hospitalized with secondary infections, the state has told doctors not to test for swine flu. If the state tested for every case of the flu, the lab would be doing H1N1 tests all day, every day.

So how do all these people know that their children have swine flu? Am I missing something?

My friend told me that the doctor's office told her over the phone that her son has swine flu, without seeing him. They said the symptoms sounded like it.

Of course, his symptoms also sounded like influenza A, but they didn't tell her that.

I hate to criticize doctors' offices, since I know how busy they get at this time of year. I mean really slammed. However, I told Rob that I thought it was unwise of that office to tell my friend that her son had swine flu with no possible way of knowing if that could be true.

Because here's the other thing: the media has done a super job of making people really afraid of getting the swine flu. Friends have said to me, after their children test positive for the seasonal flu, "well, at least it's not swine flu! Whew!"

But your child still has the FLU. It's just a different strain.

Now, I'm not trying to make light of this flu season. The flu, whichever kind, is a bad bug. It has laid people I know out flat for two weeks, and it has done a great deal worse to many more.

I have been part of a small army of people praying for a dear little girl who had been on life support for the better part of a month due to H1N1. Praise God that she has come off the vents and machines, but there were two more pre-schoolers in flu-related comas who took her place. I know that this virus is hard on little ones, and I think that's what makes it so scary.

My friend is rightfully worried about her son because he has chronic health problems that could become very severe with the flu. Telling her that he has H1N1, with no way of knowing for certain, does nothing to help calm her fears.

All this misinformation is just starting to chafe me.

Lots of people think that because of Rob's job, I have some kind of inside to track to vaccines and other preventative care, but anyone who's related to a doctor can tell you otherwise.

My kids and I are still waiting for flu shots, and at the rate we're going, we'll be able to get one in March. When flu season is over.

I am not anti-vaccine, Rob has expressed his desire that we get flu vaccines this year, and if the nurse called me and told me that they finally had the vaccine in, I would drive the kids right over. But we also know it's not a magic bullet. We have to keep our heads and keep up our preventative measures while we're waiting for access to the vaccine.

It seems that The Flu, as a topic, is a real hot button, and I'm not trying to kick a hornet's nest, but I just have to call it like I see it.

I am not immune to fears of serious illness in my children, and when I start to get really worried, Rob talks me off a ledge with common sense, like this:

  • Start with a good diet, rich in vitamins C and D, and get plenty of rest.
  • WASH YOUR HANDS. This cannot be underestimated. (We also sanitize with alcohol based sanitizers when we come out of stores -- but we still wash our hands at the first opportunity.)
  • STAY HOME when you are sick. Keep your kids home when they are sick. Even if they are missing really fun stuff like field trips and birthday parties.
  • Clean the communal surfaces in your home OFTEN: doorknobs, telephones, computer keyboards, etc . . .
  • Tamiflu is only effective if started in the first 24 hours of the flu. Otherwise you have to ride it out. Other family members should NOT be treated prophylactically with Tamiflu.
  • If you are choosing to vaccinate, remember that the nasal mist type of vaccine has the flu virus in it, so it is possible to get a mild case of the flu. Pregnant women and small children should get the shot, not the mist.
  • Remember that H1N1 IS the flu, and it is less deadly worldwide than the seasonal flu (even though it seems to affect an entirely different population than the "regular" flu.)
  • Did I mention WASH YOUR HANDS? Soap and water are our BFF.

And after all this, you might still get sick. It's easy to see where the fear comes from.

How about you, my friends? Is the flu rampant where you are? Have you or your kids had it? Any good flu-fighting tips?

Stay well . . . I'm off to wash my hands.


  1. The flu is rampant around here and our doctors are doing the same thing. Since the flu started so early, they just assumed that a positive test meant swine flu and were telling people that. I do think that is a mistake...but what can you do! We have been lucky enough to avoid it so far...but I am like you WASH THOSE HANDS!!!

  2. Anonymous5:32 PM

    I so agree with everything you said. Tom told a friend of ours who is a doctor that most lv docs weren't testing for swine flu just because and he said he still was for now because people are so panicked and want that reassurance. I don't think the media is helping the situation at all. So I'll say, ditto- wash your hands, it's the mantra in our house!
    Stay healthy!
    Mirabella MOM

  3. I gotta say, I'm with you on this, Aim. All I hear, all day long, is Swine flu this, H1N1 that...especially with the population which I serve. I even had an email from a head health official in my county that informed us, that he indicated that, because "normal" flu season doesn't "normally start" until December, if you or your loved one tests positive for flu right now, then it is unequivocally swine flu. Not it may be, or ask if it is...he said, "It IS Swine Flu." Nothing like having head health officials and the media scare the daylights out of people.

    I agree, at this point, I'd like to see the return of common sense and universal precautions. While I understand that this flu can cause significant problems for a certain demographic, I also believe that the "normal" flu is also certainly best avoided through all of the common, time-honored principles, such as hand-washing, and keeping your loved one home when they're sick, etc.
    The Juje


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