Posts Tagged ‘Swine Flu’

Swine Flu Update: November 4

November 4, 2009

I was able to get my H1N1 flu shot last Saturday! My State Health Department has a hotline for information on the H1N1 vaccine; since I am in a high priority group I called every few days to check on the availability. I think I got to be on a first name basis with most of their phone staff. But last Tuesday, instead of telling me the usual “Check back in a few days,” the operator asked if I would like to make an appointment to receive the vaccine! I took the earliest time available! Check your State Health Department’s website and see if they list an information line for the H1N1 vaccine and start calling!

Here’s a startling and sobering fact that you need to know: So far, 1 out of every 25 pregnant women who has contracted H1N1 has died. Take a breath, back up, and read that statement again. Read it until it has been hammered into your brain. Click the link and read the article that backs up that statement. Now, start making plans to get your H1N1 shot.

In regard the above statistic, exactly how deadly is H1N1? No one is sure. The standard measure of disease lethality is the Case Fatality Report, or CFR. Getting the CFR of H1N1 is simple math: Divide the number of people who died from H1N1 by the total number of people who contracted H1N1.

No matter what, the CFR is going to be wrong. There are going to be cases that go undiagnosed. Some people will wake up feeling miserable, realize they probably have the flu, and lock themselves away until it passes. Doctors make mistakes, and the rapid results test for H1N1 is only about 60% accurate. But the best that we can tell, H1N1 has a CFR of 0.5% for all reported cases. Regular Seasonal Flu CFR is usually about 0.1%. Both numbers are very small, but you can truthfully say that H1N1 is five times deadlier than the Seasonal Flu.

In other news, the United States has emptied its reserves of Children’s Tamiflu. Don’t worry, more is coming, and Adult Tamiflu can be “cut” to the correct dosage for children.  But that is one of those “Don’t try this at home!” activities, you don’t know what you are doing. Ask your local Pharmacist for guidance.

The Ukraine has banned public gatherings in an effort to control the spread of H1N1, since 67 people have died of “the flu”. This flu is not specifically identified but H1N1 is the most virulent illness out there right now. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko addressed the nation about the flu situation – and placed all the blame for being unprepared squarely on his Prime Minister:

My request of May to the Prime Minister to allocate funds to establish a lab, to “arm” us in the situation, when the world is smitten by the epidemic of this flu, to date has not been answered.

Oh, boy.

There is also a looming crisis in Canada. The Providence of Alberta – in fact, all of Canada – was planning for a ho-hum, wait and see response by the public to the vaccine. Then three children died of H1N1 and there was a huge rush of people ready to be vaccinated. Still, things were under control until the manufacturer informed the Government of Alberta about vaccine shortages the day before the drug was needed. Clinics were suspended and a carefully crafted vaccination plan thrown into confusion. Nobody knows exactly what is going on and the opposition is calling for the Health Minister’s head. It’s becoming a political issue rather than a Public Health issue, and that’s dangerous. Meanwhile, a prominent Swedish politician has died from H1N1. North Korea claims not to have any cases of the Swine Flu. The South Korean government believes them – the average North Korean is undernourished and more susceptible to any kind of illness.  NK is probably taking drastic steps to make sure H1N1 can’t run free in their country.

Again, I have received my H1N1 vaccine, and I recommend you do the same.

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Swine Flu Update: October 21

October 21, 2009

Let’s just call this The Panic Edition! since there are several reports that could really keep you up at night if you let them.

South Korea has a problem. And this is a big problem, too: Five people are dead after receiving their Seasonal Flu shot.

Five people over three days is not a trend, but with all three of them having recently received their vaccinations, it does warrant a second look. South Korea has some smart people looking into this, and Americans need not panic; the vaccine involved is from a local manufacturer and is probably not distributed in the United States.

We have problems of our own to worry about. Eurosurvellence ran a model using Centers for Disease Control reports and they feel that 63% of the people in the US will be infected. They also feel that the vaccination program here will be too little, too late as H1N1 begins to snowball out of control. The American College Health Association contradicts this, they feel the flu is trending down. Anyone want to take a guess?

Our Aussie and New Zealand friends have learned that Oxygen can be a key to survival. 79% of H1N1 patients treated with Oxygen survived their bout with the flu. The bad news is that the 79% were treated with Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO). That’s not a mask over your face, ECMO is an advanced heart-lung machine. And there aren’t that many around.

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) is also reporting that there seems to be two versions of H1N1 – 99% of the cases make you feel like crap for a week. The other one percent will make you “gravely ill and require staggering amounts of care.”

Mexico has discovered something quite unusual. There is no link here because the original report is in Spanish, and I had to run it through an online translator to read it. Online translators can’t pick up on the subtle clues in a language that a person can, and they can come out looking really strange. It didn’t make any sense at all, so I had to print it out and take it to a person who read it to me – that is why there is no link.

According to the Mexicans, 29% of all H1N1 fatalities in that country involved one factor: the victim was a smoker. When you factor out the people “too young to smoke” the percentage goes up – WAY up.

So now, on top of getting your vaccination, you have a damn good reason to get away from the smokes!

No Fair? No fair!

October 14, 2009

I’ve decided not to go to the South Carolina State Fair this year. I hate having to do that, but with H1N1, no vaccine available just yet, and an average annual attendance of 500,000…. it’s just a bit too risky for me. But the point was driven home today – I learned that a nearby school is going to be closed down for a while because 20% of the students have some form of respiratory illness. I know people in the school and go to church with some of them. That’s striking too close to home!

The fair is always fun and I hate that I will certainly miss it. One year my brother and I went to the State Fair and found a game that we could win: Throw a dime at a huge display of glassware, and if the dime landed in a glass or stopped on a plate, you won it! We went home with 30 pieces of glassware (none of which matched!) and my mom had this priceless “What in the world?” look on her face. But she managed to find cabinet space for everything!

Even today, almost twenty years later, I’ll glance down at a plate or serving tray and realize it is one of the items we won. I used a Yosemite Sam glass from that “collection” for years; and it was my favorite glass… until the sad day when I dropped my Yosemite Sam glass!!!

If you think I was upset, you should have seen Sam. He was all broken up over it! 🙂

Even More Flu News!

October 12, 2009

It always seem to happen – I save up some good links about the H1N1 Swine Flu, go back through them and read them carefully, type an informative post… and as soon as I publish it, I find even more information that I think you could use.

It’s happened again, as usual. But instead of saving them until my next Flu Update, I decided to post them today. They’re pretty important links that you should  read, but also I have to see the doctor today. It’s my first time seeing this doctor, so I don’t know how long it will take.

I’m not seeing a new specialist – my usual doctor (my Primary Care Physician, for those of you who don’t live in the United States) recently retired, and this is my first appointment with my new doctor. Since my heart is *ahem* quite unusual, I think I’ll be there for a while!

But on to the flu… If you have a TamiFlu prescription for your child, be very careful. Doctors usually prescribe liquid medication in milliliters, but the TamiFlu box has a syringe that measures Milligrams. These measurements are not the same, and you could easily give too much or too little of the drug.

Revere over at Effect Measure (who has become one of my favorite Flubloggers) has a look at Intensive Care Unit (ICU) occupancy in the Southern Hemisphere and has some disturbing news: ICU units could get slammed. It’s not so much that we don’t have enough ICU beds to deal with a crisis, you have to have a staff with the required amount of medical training.

The second wave of H1N1 is sweeping the United States, brought on my close contact. As I’ve mentioned before, Influenza loves a crowd, and it is fall – school is back in session. Flu is even altering our worship habits: The Archdiocese of Winnipeg is taking steps to limit the spread of the Flu. No Holy Water for a while (but there is hand sanitizer) and shaking hands is discouraged. The public area is sanitized after each service, and even the Chalice gets wiped after every use. It feels strange, I’m sure, but I think God understands.

And finally, a post that I hope will reassure those who have questions about the vaccine. You really do need this immunization, especially if you have a Chronic Illness. I’ve had my seasonal flu shot, I’m on the lookout for the H1N1 shot, and I highly recommend that you do the same.

And now, off to the doctor’s office!

Swine Flu Update: October 10

October 9, 2009

The H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine is starting to be distributed nationwide, and just in time, it seems. Pregnant women have been hit especially hard by this bug and they are one of the priority groups that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends receive the vaccine as soon as possible. Children are also being hit hard – 19 have died this week.

Do you have the Swine Flu? Microsoft and Emory University have teamed up to create an online Flu Quiz – answer a series of questions, and your computer will compare your answers to a list of known symptoms and then inform you of the possibility that you have the flu. I answered the questions last night and the computerized doctor told me I was OK! But if someone in your home does have the Flu, here is the CDC’s informational guide for taking care of them while hopefully avoiding catching it yourself.  (If you live with someone who has the Flu and you are in a high risk group, you need to stay six feet away from the patient. Sounds like a good time to hire a Home Health Nurse.)

There have been questions raised about the safety of the vaccine, and here is the CDC’s web page addressing those issues. Also, there has been no link shown between vaccine and Autism. There was a research report from England published 10 years ago that seemingly linked the Mumps, Measles, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine with increased occurrences of Autism; but further research call those results into question. Most of the authors of that original research have since said that their research didn’t seem to hold up.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have taken the vaccinations that have been recommended to me over the years, and there have been no side effects other than occasional soreness at the injection site. And with my heart defect, I feel that I would have been more suceptable to any adverse reaction.

But wait, there’s MORE!

October 1, 2009

Call today, and you’ll receive…. your flu shot!

I  thought I would pass what I learned today along to you: I called the local office of my state health department (the Department of Health and Environmental Control, spelled DHEC and pronounced “dee-heck”) and asked about the status of the H1N1 vaccine. I was told that the FluMist would be available next week, (they thought) and the injections two weeks after that.

Good, I said; I am in one of the priority groups but my doctor says that I should only get it as an injection.

If that is so you should call this number, the operator told me. That’s our district office. Tell them that you are in a priority group and make an appointment to get the shot. You can tell them that you want to get the shot here rather than travel all the way to the district, too.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is going to allocate shots to the individual states based on population. This is not rationing, but rather an attempt to equalize distribution – a way to make sure that there aren’t 45,000 extra doses available on the West Coast but you can’t find one the vaccine in Florida. And if a state knows that there is a pressing need locally, they can ask CDC to increase their allotment.

So if you know you need to have the H1N1 vaccine, call your state health department. Let them know that you want the shot, and try to set up a time and place to get it… you can always change the details later. But doing so will help make sure that the vaccine is available.

Swine Flu Update: September 24

September 24, 2009

Influenza loves crowds, and H1N1 has (literally) found a captive audience:  Two prisoners in the Federal Penitentiary in Memphis, Tennessee have the Swine Flu. Obviously the prison has been quarantined and the two prisoners segregated from the rest of the population. Prisons are very good at implementing their Lockdown procedures during times of unrest; so hopefully they can overcome this.

There are new cases of H1N1 in Iran, and half of those are from people returning from their pilgrimage to Mecca. The Iranian government recently banned its citizens from going to Mecca this year. The airport in Cairo, Egypt is gearing up to screen their returning citizens in an effort to mitigate H1N1. At least the people who rent private jets are happy!

Health Canada had a whopper of a faux pas this week when they sent relief supplies to reservations in Manitoba: Inside the crate were hand sanitizer, face masks… and body bags! The local authorities are quite upset, as you might imagine. To make it even worse, a manufacturer of body bags told the Ottawa Citizen that sales are up. I can understand making plans for what to do if the worst happens, but do you have to go out and brag about it? Remember the World War II slogan: Loose Lips Sink Ships! or in this case, panic the people.

There is good news – The Centers for Disease Control recently conducted tests in which they injected H1N1 and H5N1 (the Bird Flu) into ferrets. The two diseases did not combine – good news, since H1N1 spreads easier but H5N1 is more lethal. Flu of all types is still unpredictable, but it seems the two can’t be forced upon one another. CDC has revised its guidelines on flu symptoms and when you should seek treatment (as you see more cases, you learn more about how to deal with it) and a nasal spray vaccine will be available the first week of October. It is not recommended for those of us with “heart disease” so I don’t know about CHDers, but I’m betting we’ll have to wait for the shots. But if you are the parent of a medically fragile child and you are healthy, it could be worthwhile to pursue the early inoculation.

As always, it is best to stay calm and watch/read as much news as you can. Find sources outside of your home country, as they often have a different perspective you may not have considered. And I still personally feel that getting the H1N1 shot is very important.

Swine Flu Update: Thursday, August 20

August 20, 2009

Swine Flu has yet another name.

Swine Flu wasn’t good enough; and apparently H1N1 makes the International Union of English Letters and Numbers nervous. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine recently gave it the name S-OIV, short for Swine Origin Influenza Virus. Gee… you wonder if we waste time trying to figure out what to call this thing, it might sneak up and make a bunch of people sick?

The Centers for Disease Control has issued its recommendations for those who should get the vaccine first, and those of us with a Chronic Illness are on the list. As soon as it becomes available, it would pay to get in line – the priority groups total about half of the US population. Mexico is already predicting a shortage of vaccines, at least at first.

H1N1 continues to spread, almost at will – the Costa Rican President has a case of it, along with three politicians from Ecuador. Fans at a Brazilian soccer match were recently forced to wear facemasks to attend a game, which brings to mind this photograph from our past.

There is some good news – the seasonal flu vaccine is going to be ready early. Since the Swine Flu and the “usual” flu strain that is going around are different, we’re going to have to be inoculated for both the regular flu and H1N1. Oh, boy, something else to look forward to. I’m not a big fan of needles – whenever I have a blood test and the tech asks my name and birthday, I always want to ask “Do you think I’d be letting you poke me if I didn’t have to?!?!” But someone, somewhere probably enjoys it just a little bit too much, so I never ask. They may tell me a few things that I’d rather not know!

Flu Update: July 28

July 28, 2009

Well, it finally happened.

I was sitting in the hotel restaurant Sunday morning and saw a report from WRAL-TV summarizing the Swine Flu (H1N1) outbreak in North Carolina. The news media is starting to pay attention.

That might not be a good thing: At least one medical blogger believes that news coverage so far has been “misguided and dangerous” and another considers it “media malpractice.” TV news – especially local TV news – has always concentrated on “The Fuzz and the Was” to generate ratings. People seem to be drawn to bad news, so stations concentrate on crime (which of course brings out the Fuzz, an older slang term for the police) and death (the “was”… people who *was* here but aren’t anymore). So examine everything you see or read with a critical eye.

That said, the British Heart Foundation says that people with a complex Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) could be at a greater risk for H1N1 complications. They recommend that CHDers go for treatment as soon as possible after they begin to show symptoms. Effect Measure has a great post about identifying Swine Flu symptoms that you really need to read, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also has good information. I’ve posted both of those links before, but there is every reason in the world to remind ourselves what to look for. If you have a Chronic Illness, you’re more susceptible to H1N1. CDC also has an information sheet on the H1N1 vaccine. People with underlying health conditions are a priority group to receive the vaccine.

Canadian researchers are attempting to discover if Vitamin D protects against the Swine Flu. A positive finding would give us another weapon to fight with, because H1N1 could become resistant to Tamiflu.

Meanwhile the Pandemic – and the Panic – continues in Great Britain, egged on in part by sensationalist press coverage. Thermometer sales are up 700% and you can hardly find one for sale. The Guardian acknowledges that there is “more panic than pandemic” but the very next day The Daily Mail warns that Tamiflu resistance could “leave Britain all but defenceless”!

The flu is gonna get you, so run for your lives! Oh, as you leave… buy our newspaper!

Bottom Line: H1N1 can have serious consequences for the Chronically Ill, including (and perhaps especially) those of us with a Heart Defect. So watch the news with a critical eye, keep up with the latest flu news, and take care of yourself. The only one who is really looking out for your health is YOU.

A/H1N1 Flu Notes

July 16, 2009

This isn’t an “official” Swine Flu update, just some news links I’ve found over the last few days. The US State Department has issued a Travel Warning for China – The Chinese have instituted a quarantine for travelers who show fever or flu-like symptoms. The warning was issued because there have been reports that unaccompanied minors traveling in China have been quarantined, also. There have been more than 1300 cases of H1N1 reported in China, and the Los Angeles Times recently ran a first person account of Chinese quarantine procedures.

PalMD at White Coat Underground gives us an example of how a summer camp handled a H1N1 outbreak. Marc Siegel, writing in Slate, gives us a look at another camp… and you won’t believe how this outbreak got started.

In Great Britain, the P word doesn’t stand for Pandemic, but rather Panic… triggered by a government report and spurred on by the media.  This article’s headline implies that H1N1 is spreading at a phenomenal rate, but the third paragraph states that it’s not necessarily H1N1 – what’s spreading is Influenza-Like Illness (ILI). One may not be the other, but just reading the headline would make you think the world was ending.  Add a few dire predictions and suddenly you have people running in the streets. It’s to the point that prominent doctors are telling the Health Minister to shut up – ‘It’s almost like he’s been preparing for this pandemic flu for so long he wants it to be fulfilled.’

My crystal ball is cracked, so I can’t make any prediction on what H1N1 will do. But a full scale panic won’t help. This is a situation in which cooler heads need to prevail.