Being enamored of microscopic bugs, I'm always interested when I hear there is a completely new virus ready to take mankind out of business. But swine flu? Is that really new? I recall the flu vaccine issues from decades ago where people became ill from the swine flu vaccine and died. It's the reason I hear over and over from patients who refuse the vaccine each year. In addition, the great flu pandemic of 1918 was swine influenza so you see, it isn't really new. The news (I know) is stating that this is just the beginning and perhaps this flu will go away for 18 weeks, then it'll return with a vengeance. Let the fear mongering begin.
The Great Influenza, by John Barry, was one of the best books I've ever read about the flu outbreak in 1918 and its impact on modern medicine, war and life. His descriptions of what could only be SIRS and MODS were riveting. People would wake up feeling a little ill in the morning and without appropriate care, would be dead by late afternoon or the very next day. Communities overwhelmed by the sick could not provide care for the acutely ill. This book also touched on the makings of vaccine that while not a new thing, were incredibly amazing.
As a nurse, I've been watching the news with interest and have a few points I'd like to clarify:
I am not making light of the issue when I say that I'm awed by the stamina of viruses and bacterium, because the ability of microorganisms to adapt and change is truly impressive. If we create drugs to combat these bugs, over time they adapt and become resistant to our efforts. For creatures that don't have brains, they're really a marvel.
- Nobody has mentioned HAND WASHING as a means of prevention. Do it. Often.
- The news (I know) has been telling people that if you have a fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, but especially a fever, to call your doctor in a week if you aren't better so you can get Tamiflu. I'm here to tell you that Tamiflu works, but waiting a week to get help is too long. Read my second paragraph above.
- For the sake of everyone else, if you are sick, with the exception of going to the doctor, please stay at home in your bed. The rest of us don't want your cooties.
- Leave the swine alone- this outbreak is not their fault. It's not like they created it, they may harbor it, but they get sick from it too.