Log in

No account? Create an account
27 April 2009 @ 09:52 pm
Swine Flu - Don't freak out  
OK, since it is starting to hit main news outlets and people are starting to worry, I thought I would do one of the Dr. Jean Health Care summaries for y'all.

#1 - Don't freak out. Really.
At this point, it is a potentially scary infection, but limited to people who have recently been to Mexico or their close contacts. No, it is not transmitted in food, so enjoy your ham sammiches and bacon cheeseburgers. We will know more in the next few days about how virulent it is and how easily it is transmitted from one person to the next, but right now it's not worth getting your undies in a bunch. Be cautious, yes. Watch the news updates, yes. But don't freak out. THAT doesn't help anyway. 

#2 - Like many viral illnesses, it is preventable to some degree.

They are saying that the influenza can be passed on by someone for about eight days - the day before they become ill and the week after. The virus can be transmitted through the air or from surfaces. So, avoid hanging out with people who have recently been to Mexico or the Southwest near the border or who are obviously unwell. Wash your hands. Don't go to Mexico. Wash your hands. Cover your mouth with your arm/your elbow/a kleenex (NOT your hands) when you sneeze or cough. Wash your hands. Get a lot of rest and stay the hell home if you feel ill. Wash your hands. If you are immunosuppressed, have small children, or otherwise have health conditions that would make any bout of influenza a dangerous thing, consider avoiding large groups of people (Maul of America, large sporting events, etc.). Wash your hands. Clean with bleach if anyone in the house is ill. Wash your hands. Consider calling your doctor with any influenza-type illnesses, but don't just go in. Wash your hands.

Regarding handwashing: Hot water and soap. Scrub well for 30 seconds (sing the birthday song) and scrub up past the wrists. Rinse well and wipe off promptly. Use alcohol gel if you cannot wash your hands promptly or as an added measure.

Regarding masks - viruses are vanishingly small little buggers and so may not be filtered out by masks but viruses are usually transmitted on sneeze droplets, so masks are not entirely useless. However, they are probably not generally a necessary precaution unless you are a high-risk individual going into a high-risk situation, OR you work in a health-care setting where this is a risk to you or your patients, OR if this does become more wide-spread and you are prone to touching your face, biting your nails, chewing on pens, etc. simply because a mask blocks you from doing so.

#3 - I am throwing up!!!! OMG!11!1!!! I haz swine flu!!!1!11!!.... Or not.
This strain of influenza is like most influenzas - the primary symptoms are RESPIRATORY, not GASTROINTESTINAL. The symptoms you are looking for are: fever, cough, headache, sore throat, body aches, etc. Some people have reported some nausea and diarrhea, but they are not the classic, primary symptoms. If you do develop influenza-type symptoms but are not in a high-risk group and have not had knowing contact with someone who was recently in Mexico or one of the affected areas, you probably just should ride it out. If you are worried about it, call your medical practitioner and report the illness, but don't be alarmed if they tell you to just stay the hell home unless it gets worse. High-risk or high-suspicion cases may be asked to come in for testing.

#4 - Yes, there are medications for it. No, don't ask your doctor for them.
There is a great big stockpile of antivirals, two of which are effective against this sort of flu. However, don't ask for them because chances are your doctor is not going to release them for treatment unless you actually test positive for THIS strain of influenza and you won't get them prophyllactically unless this does turn into a pandemic. Even then, they probably will be reserved for active cases and high-risk patients. Think about it - we don't want to over-use the two known effective medications - viruses mutate quickly and we don't want to promote early resistance. Besides, cases outside of Mexico seem to be more mild than those reported in Mexico. Whether that is because of a loss of virulence, genetic predispositions/protections, a matter of scale in the number of people affected, or what, remains to be seen. Sadly, because it is primarily a swine flu, it seems that the influenza vaccine from last year likely will not offer any protection. See my previous post about influenza and non-prescription treatments you can use.

#5 - It's actually sort of cool... FrankenVirus!

I'm actually sort of geeked out that it's a FrankenVirus - part human, part avian flu, part Western swine flu, part Eastern swine flu. Hee.

So, the short list is:
  • Don't freak
  • Wash your hands
  • Don't go to Mexico/Southwest/Southern California if you can help it
  • Keep up with the news (I'll post important updates, too, I imagine)
  • Stay the hell home if you are sick

CDC Website on the outbreak

Current Mood: nerdynerdy
jtdiiijtdiii on April 28th, 2009 03:37 am (UTC)
As I pack my bags for a two week trip to OKC, with travel through Dallas/Fort Worth both ways.

Well it could be worse, I could be going to NYC. :)

eithni: snapeeithni on April 28th, 2009 03:40 am (UTC)
Dunno. You're going to TEXAS. That's a whole different country down there, in more than one way. :P

Consider a mask on the plane and take some hand gel and you should be fine. (As long as TSA doesn't take either away from you as a security hazard...)
(no subject) - jtdiii on April 28th, 2009 03:43 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eithni on April 28th, 2009 04:19 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - jtdiii on April 28th, 2009 03:49 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eithni on April 28th, 2009 04:19 am (UTC) (Expand)
teffanteffan on April 28th, 2009 03:42 am (UTC)
I figure if I start feeling healthy that will indicate a possible infestation of said virus ;)
frausenseifrausensei on April 28th, 2009 03:54 am (UTC)
But I live in Southern California! And some of my students go to Mexico every weekend. Ah well, I probably won't catch it anyway.
Splottsplott on April 28th, 2009 04:13 am (UTC)
YOU! You should have a flu shot! *pesterpester* Even if it only provides partial protection. Off to the Dr. with you, big sister! :)
(no subject) - eithni on April 28th, 2009 04:18 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eithni on April 28th, 2009 04:19 am (UTC) (Expand)
Splottsplott on April 28th, 2009 04:12 am (UTC)
So we should be on the lookout for a flu that looks like..a flu? How on earth would we know the diff?

I've been sick since Wednesday, I'm bored out of my gourd and have seen a few people and gone out once, but done my best to keep distance. :)
eithni: PharmDeithni on April 28th, 2009 04:17 am (UTC)
How on earth would we know the diff?

Have you recently snuck off to Mexico? NYC? Licked someone who recently went to Mexico? No? You're fine, in 99.99999% probability.

The only way to tell for sure would be to have the test run on your flu bug, but you're young and healthy and it is unlikely, so rest up, drink fluids, and don't freak.
(no subject) - splott on April 28th, 2009 04:20 am (UTC) (Expand)
Denisilaifire on April 28th, 2009 04:25 am (UTC)
eithni: snapeeithni on April 28th, 2009 04:27 am (UTC)
That would be funnier if I was not going to have to field at least two of those questions tomorrow...
(no subject) - ilaifire on April 28th, 2009 04:29 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eithni on April 28th, 2009 04:37 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - frausensei on April 28th, 2009 01:08 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - world_rim_walke on April 28th, 2009 04:20 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mtgordon on April 28th, 2009 12:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
JinglyMushroomjinglymushroom on April 28th, 2009 04:33 am (UTC)
May I give you a great big hug and hang on like you're a comforting teddy bear or blanket for a moment, please?
I almost got quarantined today to keep me safe... (But I refused and went dancing anyway.)
eithni: peekabooeithni on April 28th, 2009 04:38 am (UTC)
No problemo. Other than the careful handwashing, this really should have minimal impact on our lives unless it escalates locally.
Aaronaaron_pike on April 28th, 2009 11:44 am (UTC)
Scrub well for 30 seconds (sing the birthday song)

You can sing the whole thing in thirty seconds? How do you get all of those verses in?

As far as masks go, I think the primary usefulness is for when you actually are sick. It lets everyone else know not to lick you.
eithni: greeneithni on April 29th, 2009 07:28 pm (UTC)
The "Happy Birthday to Youuuuuu..." Birthday song. :P
Mark Gordon: seriousmtgordon on April 28th, 2009 12:56 pm (UTC)
How to treat a cytokine storm?
One of the problems with the antivirals is that they don't have enough supply to treat a 1918-scale pandemic. My understanding is that there are two deadly side effects: cytokine storm and secondary bacterial pneumonia. The latter should respond to antibiotics, if they're started quickly enough. The former is a bit trickier, but I've heard that ACE inhibitors might be of some benefit. Any thoughts there?
eithni: PharmDeithni on April 29th, 2009 07:32 pm (UTC)
Re: How to treat a cytokine storm?
I have not heard that this flu causes a cytokine storm, although that may be in part why it is more dangerous in young healthy people. Do you have a source for that info?

While they may not have enough currently stocked for a full world-wide pandemic, it is a start and there is ample manufacturing capacity to ramp up production pretty quickly, if needed. The antivirals that are effective are not biologicals or other difficult-to-produce medications. Worst case scenario, I can see their patent getting yanked and multiple manufacturers being allowed to produce it.
Re: How to treat a cytokine storm? - mtgordon on April 29th, 2009 07:49 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: How to treat a cytokine storm? - jack_flanders on April 30th, 2009 05:46 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: How to treat a cytokine storm? - eithni on April 30th, 2009 05:54 am (UTC) (Expand)
valkyr8: Orlandovalkyr8 on April 28th, 2009 01:55 pm (UTC)
Well that appears to be straight forward, informative and rational. I don't think we can have that here. Don't you know this is an epidemic? OMGWEAREALLGOINGTODIE!!!!!!!!!!!
Doug Hulick / Simon Morcar: sarcasmswords_and_pens on April 28th, 2009 03:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you. It's nice to see at least one person here being sensible and panicking. If we don't run around in circles, how will the headless chickens ever learn?
Gabriel andvakagxdm on April 28th, 2009 03:01 pm (UTC)
*chuckles* Jim MacDonald is a Sci-Fi author and former SCAdian. (His wife co-wrote the Calontir national anthem.) He's also a licensed...err...paramedic I believe. He posts to a blog called Making Light, and his medical posts are full of sage advice.

I commend him onto you, as you two seem to have the exact same advice.

and more particularly:
zandoria: Flagzandoria on April 28th, 2009 03:42 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the rational voice
According to the news last night, the cases that have been identified in Candaa (in British Columbia and Ontario), all were in Mexico, and all are simply resting at home and taking care of themselves. That includes the lady in BC who's preggers.

Our governnment medical people are basically saying "Worry, but don't worry. We'll let you know when it's time to Worry". We got drugs. Wash your hands."

Edited at 2009-04-28 03:42 pm (UTC)
nearlyvalkyrie: Stupiditynearlyvalkyrie on April 28th, 2009 04:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you for being a voice of calm and correct information, facing down higgledy-piggledy panickness :-)
dread_exdread_ex on April 28th, 2009 11:20 pm (UTC)
Can you get the Swine Flu if you are Jewish?
eithni: WTFeithni on April 29th, 2009 07:26 pm (UTC)
No. :P
(no subject) - mtgordon on April 29th, 2009 08:31 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eithni on April 29th, 2009 09:03 pm (UTC) (Expand)
PonderousMandghall on April 29th, 2009 03:09 am (UTC)
OK, so without sounding like a nutcase...

If this is such a weird frankenvirus, what are the odds it's not the result of evolution in the wild?

Said another way, given that we spend a lot of time monitoring virus strains these days (q.v. SARS, Avian flu, past Swine flu outbreaks), if this is "something we've never seen before" (a quote from some CDC type), how can The Powers That Be simply dismiss this as a naturally evolved Genotype?

Oh, and while we're doing rampant speculation (well, *I* am at least :P ), my bet is that the strain that got carried north evolved to something weaker really fast - or already had been, and the deadly version is limited geographically, at least for now. (Notice how there is zero info on the geographical spread within Mexico itself...)

That said, I'm not going to worry until we see at least a dozen cases in the Midwest. I am going over the "supplies to get through a week hunkered down" list from the Red Cross, tho. (Oh, goodie, an excuse to buy Dinty Moore!)
Aaronaaron_pike on April 29th, 2009 05:20 am (UTC)
Re: Frankenvirus
Er ... wasn't there a swine flu outbreak in the 1970s?
Re: Frankenvirus - eithni on April 29th, 2009 07:19 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Frankenvirus - eithni on April 29th, 2009 07:26 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Frankenvirus - mtgordon on April 29th, 2009 08:31 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Frankenvirus - eithni on April 29th, 2009 09:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Frankenvirus - jack_flanders on April 30th, 2009 05:52 am (UTC) (Expand)