Is the Swine Flu Really a “Pandemic?”
By Dr. Nicole Sundene
“Tamiflu!!!! I want Tamiflu NOW NOW NOW!!!!”
~Shouted at a Telephone Triage Nurse Yesterday
For those of you that are new readers to Kitchen Table Medicine, please keep in mind that I have been described to have a “very dry” if not “seriously warped” sense of humor.
So if you want the boring ol’ facts about “The Swine Flu Pandemic” visit my fav site www.CDC.gov, as that is precisely where I ascertained the following medical opinions.
I put the preamble there because I got busted joking around on Twitter by a doctor friend for saying, “it’s just diarrhea people.” On Twitter I follow many nurses, doctors, infection control, the CDC, and so forth.
Everyone has their opinion and the general consensus is that we need to practice standard precautions to prevent this from becoming the “Pandemic” the news is purporting it to be.
I understand the deaths associated with this disease, however, I also understand the disease, and the likelihood that you will get it, and that is what I would like to discuss today– the real non-hyped facts to alleviate panic on this “pandemic.” The news needs news, but what you need are facts. So let’s talk about the facts, educate ourselves on the symptoms, and know what exactly we need to do.
First of all let’s get some perspective on this “Swine Flu National Epidemic,” as 227 people died in America from deer related car crashes in 2007. Also, 1.5 million humans experienced deer related traffic accidents causing an estimated $1.1 billion in vehicle damages. (Source)
Yet are we declaring “Deer a National Epidemic?” Are we slaughtering deer left and right? (Which they are doing with pigs in Egypt unnecessarily!) Is the news reporting every five seconds on the latest person to die from crashing in to a deer?
Because that is just not that interesting, and deer are so cute. Pigs may be filthy, and they may be the original host of this virus, but eating their products will not make you sick according to the CDC.
The news thrives on panic, drive by shootings, celebrity tragedies and similar daunting fear factories.
So far, one child in America has died of the Swine Flu, and my heart goes out to that family.
The very old, the very young, and those that are immunocompromised (will discuss below) are at the highest risk of death from the Swine Flu. Everyone else is just likely going to get a bad stomach ache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, sweating, chills, and a cough. Spring is always diarrhea season. The Swine Flu may be a new spring antigen, but if you are a HCP that follows health trends you know what I’m talking about.
Now is NOT the perfect time to start maxing out all your credit cards, but if ever it is the perfect day to call in sick to work! If you are symptomatic you should not be in an office setting regardless of the etiology and your doctor will certainly be happy to write you a note excusing you. If your child is symptomatic keep them out of school until they are better. School after all is just formatting their brains to think like everyone else.
As my parents and I watched the initial breaking news on The Swine Flu, I said to my Dad, “Sure seems like this Swine Flu is being over-hyped by the news,” to which he laughed, “Well Nicole isn’t that the goal of the news? To over-hype everything?” Now that all news reporters hate me….
First of all let’s all not panic, second of all let’s do the most important thing and become aware of the facts about The Swine Flu. Educate yourself on the signs and symptoms so that you can obtain the necessary medical care and QUARANTINE YOUR SELF.
Something you should do anyways anytime you are sick.
OF SECOND IMPORTANCE, PLEASE CALL YOUR DOCTOR’S NURSE FIRST AND DISCUSS THE SYMPTOMS YOU ARE EXPERIENCING BEFORE ENTERING A MEDICAL FACILITY CONTAINING SICK, ELDERLY, AND PEDIATRIC PATIENTS THAT CAN POTENTIALLY DIE FROM THE SWINE FLU!!!
So let me don my old white Dansko nursing clogs and talk about the facts vs fears. Let’s be sensible. My former hospital co-workers said they are getting really sick of answering all the frantic calls they are receiving in the nursing triage room.
One of the RN’s I used to work with said yesterday, “Honestly Nicole, I think I had a mild case of this last week. I think the news is over-hyping it and scaring our patients, everyone wants Tamiflu and they don’t even need it. We need to save the meds for the people that truly need it. Lack of meds for those that actually need them is my greatest concern at this point.” I couldn’t agree more whole heartedly with nurse Judy.
The following is the Swine Flu FAQ I told my parents at their kitchen table as we watched the news:
AM I GOING TO DIE FROM THE SWINE FLU?
From a personal standpoint as a vibrantly healthy 33 year old woman I could only be so lucky as to die from the Swine Flu, instead I will be working for another 40 years to pay off my FAFSA med student loans and making social security money for my parents and all their friends. *wink*
On a serious note, lets imagine that the Swine Flu is very similar to it’s cousin “Influenza”, 30,000 people die annually from influenza due to secondary complications such as dehydration and pneumonia. It is not really the virus that kills you; it is the development of secondary symptoms.
So, “A stitch in time saves nine,” if you think you have the symptoms of the Swine Flu. Stay at home, rest, rehydrate, and tell people to be nice to you. Call your nurse and review your symptoms to determine if an appointment is prudent.
Remember that anytime you have symptoms that are extreme with the flu, if you are not improving after 24-72 hours (influenza is 7-10 days), if you have blood in your stool or vomit, you need to call your nurse.
Quick test for dehydration: pinch the back of your hand and if the skin stays pinched….you are dehydrated. If it falls back down, you likely are not dehydrated. You can do this on the back of your baby’s neck too.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF THE SWINE FLU?
Straight from the CDC: The symptoms of swine flu in people are expected to be similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
SWINE FLU IS IT REALLY AN “EPIDEMIC?”
The first thing my family asks me the second they see something health related on the news is….is this true? Is this really an epidemic? Well actually it is a “pandemic” meaning that it is a global concern. My official answer though is that that news as usual is just hyping things up because, well that is what they do, and they need stories that will scare the heck out of people in order to keep them watching.
President Obama is not a HCP, he is simply conveying messages from the CDC or FDA and demonstrating that he is concerned by this, and that he is ultimately in charge of the welfare of all Americans. Instead of panicking let’s educate ourselves on the signs and symptoms to prevent this now pandemic. Those in third world countries are at far greater risk than those in industrialized nations.
WHAT IS THE SWINE FLU?
Straight from the CDC: “Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pigs. Swine flu viruses cause high levels of illness and low death rates in pigs. Swine influenza viruses may circulate among swine throughout the year, but most outbreaks occur during the late fall and winter months similar to outbreaks in humans. The classical swine flu virus (an influenza type A H1N1 virus) was first isolated from a pig in 1930.”
Basically, the Swine flu is a mutant form of Influenza A, the virus that some of us get vaccinated from each year. The Swine Flu proves my point that viruses are constantly mutating as discussed by terms such as “antigenic drift” and “antigenic shift” this means that in order to survive and evolve the virus must continue to change it’s DNA or RNA sequence.
This is why we currently don’t have a cure for HIV, because it mutates faster than any other virus and also hides within the very immune system cells that should be killing it. This is also why the influenza vaccine each year is only an “educated guess” at best.
WHO SHOULD REALLY BE WORRIED ABOUT SWINE FLU?
Persons that are immunocompromised or live with those that are immunocompromised. Persons that have recently visited Mexico or have recently interacted with someone that has recently visited Mexico, or another area where outbreaks have been documented.
“Immunocomopromised” means that your immune system is not as healthy as the average bear and thus you are likely to die from something like the Swine Flu: Those with chronic diseases involving the heart and lungs, diabetics, organ transplant patients on immunosuppressants, the very young, the very old, and person’s that are not in exceptional health should take extra precautions as per usual.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I THINK I HAVE THE SWINE FLU?
First call your family practice nurse to review your symptoms and determine if an appointment is prudent, before entering a hospital where immunocompromised individuals congregate.
Our typical nursing telephone triage rule with colds/flus is that we almost NEVER want to see you in the office if you have the stomach flu because #1 there is nothing we can do for you unless you need an IV, and #2 We don’t want our patients exposed to it, nor do we want to be barfed on ourselves (yes I have been barfed on many times.) When you are not improving with self care is when you need to see your doctor. There I just saved everyone $300 dollars!
AM I PROTECTED IF I HAD A FLU SHOT THIS YEAR?
You may in fact be partially protected if you had a flu shot this year, however as I stated in my article questioning the ethics of “Employer Mandated Flu Vaccine Programs,” researchers are only making a highly educated guess on the viral particles included in each year’s flu vaccine, because Influenza rapidly mutates, and eventually YES we will see a PANDEMIC of much greater proportions than the Swine Flu when we see a LARGE shift in viral genetic make up. And I’m not talking about viral cosmetics….but you can think about it that way if it helps you understand how viruses use tactics to “cover up” and evade the immune system.
WHAT SHOULD CLINICIANS DO IF THEY SUSPECT SWINE FLU?
A simple sample can be obtained and sent to the CDC for examination.
HOW CAN I PREVENT MYSELF FROM GETTING ILL FROM SWINE FLU?
Enhance your immune system with supplements such as vitamin A 5000 IU (not for pregnant women, and don’t dose this high without the consent from your naturopathic doctor), zinc (typical adult dose is about 15-30 mg daily), vitamin C 500 mg 3 times daily, The Immune Support Diet, and Immune Support Breakfast.
I would also go to Target and buy some natural Cleanwell antiviral handsoap and handspray for my family (made naturally from thyme and aloe vera and shown to even kill MRSA! The laminaceae family…lavender…oregeno…and so forth rock!) Do your best to avoid infected persons, and PLEASE STAY HOME if you have the aforementioned symptoms to prevent further spread in the community. I’m sure your doctor will be happy to write you a note.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR THE SWINE FLU?
Oral rehydration, oral rehydration, and oral rehydration!!! Electrolytes, electrolytes, electrolytes!!!! REST REST REST!!! Most importantly, tell people to be nice to you. The most important thing to address with this illness is that you do not get dehydrated. If you are throwing up and can’t keep anything down then you need an IV.
My vomiting protocol for oral rehydration is 1 tsp of electrolyte fluid doubled every fifteen minutes (Sports drinks, diluted juices with a pinch of organic sea salt, Recharge, E-mergenc, etc.) If the patient cannot even keep this down….they need an IV STAT. Better to be safe than sorry.
CAN I GET THE SWINE FLU FROM PIGS?
No. Personally I don’t eat pork, but if you want to sausage it up, don’t let the Swine Flu stop you.
And this slaughtering of all pigs in Egypt is simply ridiculous!
Did you know that pigs are smarter than some people? Pigs are the fourth smartest mammals: Humans, primates, whales/dolphins….PIGS!!! It is estimated that they likely have the intelligence of a three year old human being.
SHOULD I WEAR A MASK?
No. A mask likely won’t protect you as transmission is from close contact or “Oral-Fecal Transmission” similar to most causes of gastroenteritis such as adenovirus and rotavirus. We get these types of bugs because people don’t wash their hands after they go potty and then they eat, touch their face, etc.
DO I NEED ANTIVIRAL DRUGS?
PLEASE don’t belabor the point that you need these drugs if your physician does not find it necessary, although laboratory testing has found the swine influenza A (H1N1) virus susceptible to the prescription antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir.
The CDC has issued interim guidance for the use of these drugs to treat and prevent infection with swine influenza viruses; this does not necessarily mean you need these meds to treat symptoms similar to the Swine Flu such as the common cold, strep throat, allergies, food poisoning, or whatever else you might be sick with this time of year!
Health Care Provider’s are becoming increasingly concerned that we may experience a shortage of these medications if this “pandemic” were to transform in to a true state of emergency.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE ON SWINE FLU
The Swine Flu just proves my point with the “Soil and Seed” model of medicine we talked about with the latest salmonella outbreak. Keep yourself as healthy as possible. The less healthy you are the more severe your flu symptoms will likely be. Most healthy individuals I have consulted with experiencing mild symptoms may in fact have the swine flu and it is best that they quarantine. But they do say that even if the most deathly virus- Ebola became airborne that still 10% of the population would manage to survive. So let’s not panic.
Furthermore, there is nothing really wrong with being sick every now and then.
Think of diarrhea and vomiting as nature’s detox. You can do a Spring Cleaning on your own or wait for nature to give it to you in the form of spring diarrhea.
SHOULD THE SWINE FLU STOP ME FROM TRAVELING TO MEXICO RIGHT NOW?
Personally the last place I would go right now is Mexico. I am scared enough to travel in a country where I don’t speak the language, or am not close to adequate medical care. I live two miles from the hospital, so frankly Dr. Nicole is staying put.
SHOULD THE SWINE FLU STOP ME FROM TRAVELING INSIDE THE US?
Well that is a tougher question, I guess I would decide that on a case by case basis. Personally I wouldn’t go camping or backbacking out in the middle of nowhere right now. I’ve been in situations like that when someone gets extremely sick, and it ruins the trip for everyone. Ask yourself a few questions… Is it necessary for you to travel?
Because airplanes are one of the best places to get infected with the latest thing going around, I wouldn’t travel unless it was necessary (like for vacation *wink*) If I were traveling to a place in the US that is near a hospital for my vacation, I would go. If it were a business meeting type of thing, I would use it as an excuse to get out of it! If I were symptomatic with the aforementioned symptoms, I would do the right thing and quarantine myself regardless.
Here is a Google map tracking the spread of this “swine flu”. For live updates, just click the pic.
Visit the Center for Disease Control for resources sited and for more info: CDC.gov
HAVE A HEALTH TIP TO SHARE IN THE COMMENTS TO PROTECT FROM SWINE FLU?
Please also share your opinions, if you disagree with me you are more than welcome to debate your position as long as it follows standard High School debate team protocol.
Thanks for stopping by my kitchen table!
Official Anti-News Source for The Swine Flu.