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Lots of Viruses Are Popping Up

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

I have been off from my pediatric office today, but as you know, I continue to have e-mail correspondence with radio listeners, Web site visitors and phone calls with friends as well as patients.

So, today I heard from two different friends who were concerned that they might have “swine flu”, but they both really sounded like they had horrible colds. They had low-grade fevers, but horrible coughs and some laryngitis and they just felt horrible. One of our nurses had the same thing and she had been to her doctor at the end of last week, but grabbed me yesterday to listen to her chest again. The interesting thing is she really thought she had a virus that she had gotten from working in our pediatric office, but her doctor had put her on antibiotics, and guess what? She wasn’t any better. Fortunately, when I saw her yesterday her chest was totally clear, as were her ears and throat. She still felt pretty lousy and I told her, she probably did have a virus, and that is why the antibiotic prescription did not help. But, seeing that she had already started the antibiotics I wanted her to finish the prescription (remember, always finish the antibiotic as directed).

So, what else are we seeing right now? Lots of viruses that can appear similar to “swine flu” but are actually what we call ILI (influenza like illnesses). There is really not any way to be certain unless you have had very sophisticated tests that are not available as an outpatient. Just as I was explaining this to my friends, our producer forwarded me an article about viruses that are being identified in other areas of the country, that seemed to mimic H1N1, but when actually identified were found to be simple rhinoviruses (the most common cold virus) causing a great deal of illness.

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) is one of the few sites in the country that does extensive viral testing and can identify 10 other respiratory viruses that might mimic “swine flu”. As they were seeing numerous sick children with respiratory symptoms and even significant respiratory distress this fall, they found that not everything that looks like H1N1 is. Many of the children coming to the ER and even being admitted, actually tested positive for the common rhinovirus. They also found it was not just one type of rhinovirus, which made it even more confusing. Children were also found to have parainfluenza viruses which may cause croup and wheezing in children.

Bottom line…not everything that looks like flu is, and you can feel pretty crummy with other respiratory viruses. Unfortunately, some children may get seriously ill and require hospitalization. This also means even if you think your child had H1N1 this fall, and even if they had a positive Influenza A test in the doctor’s office, it may not have been H1N1. The statistics from CHOP were only 30 percent of those tested were actually positive for H1N1. As more H1N1 vaccine is becoming available get your child vaccinated. There are so many other viruses out there that we can’t protect your child from.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

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