Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On feeling swine flu-ish

Our Kaiser Health plan says what has laid this household low probably is the H1N1 swine flu first observed in Mexico this spring. We can't say that for certain; they are not bothering to test us as we're not seriously ill, just miserable. And we did just come from a huge convention where germs from all over encountered each other and apparently found new hosts.

After shutting down Mexico for a week and tearing through the Southern Hemisphere (a young Chilean friend was hospitalized), the swine flu is expected to hit the U.S hard in the fall. Stuck out here on the leading edge of misery, I thought you might want to know what having a mild case feels like:
  • Body aches. For both of us, this is the worst of it. Our legs and glutes have been screaming without provocation (use). It has been bad enough to keep us from sleeping deeply for several days.
  • Lack of sound sleep. Everything feels worse when you can't rest.
  • Fever. One of us has been burning up at over 101F when she doesn't keep her level of ibuprofen consumption up. The other has no fever.
  • Respiratory congestion. I feel as if I had a vice ready to tighten around my chest. So far it hasn't clamped down; it just sits there.
  • Cough. My friend has a painful cough, productive of nothing in particular.
We are not happy about any of this, though we may be acquiring some immunity that will come in handy when everyone else gets this in the fall.

When it became apparent that the Mexican outbreak was the precursor of a global flu pandemic -- but not the terrifying, super-high-human-mortality, bird flu mutation so many have been worrying about -- I looked away from the news about it for a bit. Now that I've got it, I'm catching up. Here are some links:

Center for Disease Control flu page. The CDC map at the head of this post shows swine flu is "widespread" in California. It suggests hand washing (did that at Convention to no avail) and avoiding people-to-people contact (doing that) to prevent further spread. The CDC emphasizes that just because lots of people get sick, this doesn't mean that this H1N1 pandemic is particularly dangerous in most cases.

WebMD on vaccines and you. This is an excellent, understandable timeline on what is happening/will happen with vaccine development. Short form: medical researchers don't yet know if a tested vaccine will be ready in time to limit this swine flu. Very interesting in that the culture of U.S. medicine and public health demands that huge resources be spent on vaccine development that may, or may not, assist people in the presenting outbreak.

The Reveres at Effect Measure. These folks are public health professionals, bringing a panoramic view to the swine flu pandemic. Their conclusions are thoughtful and interesting. They doubt there is time for vaccine development to help much, but urge measures to reduce the public's sense of disruption and any consequent panic. Along these lines, they concentrate on reducing on potential TV news images that will get people riled up:

... a calm, steady and rational approach will serve best. It is easy to anticipate the media images that will produce the opposite. Images of overwhelmed health services and out of stock necessities will make communication very difficult. Other effects will have less impact. ...

They urge hospitals to plan now for how they'll serve an overflow of emergency room flu sufferers and for pharmacy and other inventory systems to get ahead on supplies of face masks. If we can reduce the prominence of these visual markers of social distress, we'll weather the flu season less stressfully, they contend. Read it all for a sensible approach to the public aspect of health.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They talk about health care costs being too high, but it's not from services provided, just the inflated costs of those services. Kaiser's cost-scalping measures are prime examples.

Not testing for H1N1 was the reason the virus took hold in Mexico and killed so many. No one knew there was an epidemic until it was too late.

Anyone who worked in San Francisco's healthcare industry in the 1990's knows the public cost to Kaiser's cost savings.

Do you remember when Kaiser took over French Hospital? Its care quality plummeted as did its sanitation, cleaning just enough to make French the first hospital in the city colonized by MRSA, the staph bacteria that is resistant to even last resort antibiotics.

Kaiser Geary and Kaiser Daly City followed suit. As Kaiser discharged patients to skilled nursing facilities like Laguna Honda, Hillhaven Nob Hill, and rehab centers and other hospitals, they eventually became colonized, as well. The only way to eliminate MRSA is to tear down the buildings, or treat the patients.

The few dollars Kaiser saved on disinfectant in the 1990's, we as a society pay for in millions of dollars each year in healthcare costs to treat MRSA.

And conservatives say we don't need to reform healthcare.

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