October 26th, 2009
So the swine flu.
I’ve observed for myself and heard from other moms that in many cases, pediatricians are not testing for H1N1 in their patients with flu symptoms.
When Toots went to the doctor last Monday with fever and arguable fluey stuff going on, my pediatrician, whom I respect and trust, told me he “thought” she had the swine flu, but wasn’t going to test. Tired and unthinking, I didn’t press the matter and so left the office not knowing if Toots had the virus. Later, I complained to The Rock that she absolutely should have been tested, and he countered that it wasn’t feasible to test everybody. I thought about it a second and retorted hell yes they can. And should. At least for now.
First of all, in these initial days and months of the flu season, with everybody freaking out and not knowing which symptoms are H1N1 and which are not, we can considerably cut back on unnecessary hysteria if a sure diagnosis were made. Eliminate the wondering and over-the-top speculation. Also, because we don’t know how the flu will “present” in all cases, it’d be helpful to know if in confirmed cases, fevers always ranged above 103 degrees, or if there were always muscle aches, or if the thing lasts for more than 4 days, etc. Build a composite of anecdotal information for reference.
But most importantly, where children are concerned, and in school, and have siblings, we should know for sure whether the swine flu is circulating in our midst. Because it will change our behavior. And could actually decrease the incidence of the virus. If I had known for sure whether Toots had the flu last week, I would have for all intents and purposes, quarantined her (and the whole family). Not had her sleep in the same room as her sister. Not brought her back to the doctor’s office for a second appointment. Not have gone to mom’s night out last week because people are contagious up to 24 hours before they have symptoms, meaning I could have theoretically infected 14 moms. Moms who would have them transmitted the virus to their kids, and the kids to their siblings.
But I didn’t know. My doctor didn’t test for H1N1. So I made assumptions with very little data. I assumed Toots just had any virus. I assumed that because her fever came and went, then came and went again, it wasn’t the swine flu. I assumed that it’d be OK to send her back to school today after five days of absences.
And there she is now, back in school. Where I discover that another little boy, the brother to someone in Toot’s class, “most likely” has the swine flu. He had a 104.8 degree fever, complained of his neck hurting, became lethargic. But the doctor didn’t test, so the mom doesn’t know and assumes it’s OK for his brother to go to class. And that brother is sitting close to Toots right now. Toots, who is still a little coughy and snotty, and shouldn’t be exposed to more sickness right now. Not to mention the other kids, who are all getting over something or other.
I heard all this “through the grapevine” when a friend on the edge called me this morning to tell me the rumors. See, the mom from above is scared to say anything to anyone because of the possible hysteria it may spark. Because she doesn’t know whether or not her youngest has the swine flu, she doesn’t want everyone to freak for no reason. I know, because I felt that way last week — afraid to tell anyone that my daughter “might” have swine flu. This is part of the problem. If I knew she had it, I’d be broadcasting it to the school, to the people we spent the weekend with, to grandma who watched Toots the night she came down with the fever. They should know. It might change how they act, where they go, if they visit the doctor sooner, rather than later. Confirmation is so much better than hypothesis.
But my doctor? He said don’t say anything. Because he didn’t know for sure and it would just make people worry.
So then? Do what it takes to know for sure. Seems simple.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think the swine flu is going to kill the world. I observe the media hype and it makes me crazy. I don’t wear face masks to the Vons. But I do think that with anything, especially anything contagious, the more information we have, the better.