About Me

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My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Swine Flu and You

Panic. Frankly, I've had enough of it. Media hype. Enough of that too.

Now, I don't want anybody to think I'm some sort of definitive source of info on H1N1. I am not. However, I've been doing some reading on the virus, and talking to my friends who are doctors and nurses, and also to my own doctor and my kids' pediatrician, and here's what I *think* I know.

1. The VAST majority of cases of H1N1 are actually quite mild. Now, of course, that is absolutely no comfort at all to you if you've been sick enough to be hospitalized with this, or if -- God forbid and God bless you -- somebody in your family has died from this. But, it still doesn't change the fact that most people recover from this virus with little more than ibuprofen, bed rest and plenty of fluids. MOST people need to take a gigantic chill pill, and do what they should have always been doing with any illness: stay home if you are sick. Wash your hands. Don't share cups and utensils or food from the same plate. Throw your used tissues in the garbage right away. Become a friend to Lysol and hand sanitizer. Drink plenty of fluids. Exercise. Eat healthy.

2. Flu has always been an illness with a known variable presentation. Some people are mildly ill; some are very ill. Those who are the most ill generally have some sort of underlying condition that compromises their immune system (obesity, by the way, can be one all by itself, because overweight people have a harder time moving their lungs). All of this is still true with H1N1.

3. HOWEVER, there have been alarming numbers of otherwise healthy young adults and children who have ended up hospitalized with this. My heart goes out to them. I hope "we" figure out soon why those who are usually the most resilient are somehow particularly vulnerable to this virus.

4. According to some research I read last week, this week is the peak week for infections in the United States. This means that more people will become infected this week than in previous weeks, and that slowly those numbers will fall in the coming weeks. Now, this is based on a mathematical model, but if true, the silver lining, at least as I see it, is this: we may be done with swine flu by Christmas. Now of course, that may mean that the regular flu will take over just about then. That's not such good news. But hey -- the regular flu vaccine is easier to get ahold of than the H1N1 one, so if you get vaccinated now, maybe you'll at least avoid the "regular" flu. As it turns out, getting the H1N1 vaccine may be a moot point, because many people will have already had the virus by the time the vaccine is available. (Ask your doctor anyway if you should get it, even if you have been sick.)

If you're one of those that doesn't "believe" in vaccines, I have a lovely bridge to sell ya'. Let me know how much you're willing to pay for it, 'kay? The science is overwhelming in its evidence that those who get flu vaccines are less likely to get the flu. And the risk of becoming autistic or brain-damaged from the vaccine (any vaccine) is about one in a million. End. Of. Story.

5. My kids' experiences with the virus are typical: 72 hours of a fever, cough, chills, body aches, congestion, followed by just the cough and the congestion. To be on the safe side, I kept each sick kid home for a full five days (48 hours PAST the end of the fever). Of course, they were not sick all at once, so I've been home an awful lot lately. Sigh.

6. Is it a "national emergency" as Obama has declared? Hmmm...it is indeed causing congestion in hospitals and clinics. There ARE a lot of sick people. (Over 22% of my child's school was out last Friday; one class was missing 17 kids and the teacher!) It IS an epidemic in the sense that so many people are infected (or will be). However...the percentage of people dying from this is actually identical to the percentage of people who die annually from the "regular" flu. So...yes, more people are infected, which logically explains why more flu cases than "normal" are in the hospital and why more deaths in actual NUMBERS are being reported. BUT, the overall percentage of people dying (among those infected) still remains about 1-2%.

If I told you that you have a 99% chance of surviving the swine flu, would you feel better? I hope so.


  1. There is always too much media hype over almost everything, so I generally ignore it. I got a regular flu shot and that will have to do.

  2. I'll get the shot when the vaccine becomes available. Until then, I'll take my chances and bank on that 99% survival rate! :-)


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