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More Confusion Surrounding Swine Flu Recommendations

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

I woke up today for my regular early a.m. exercise, jumped on the treadmill and put on my headphones. I then began channel surfing flipping between various local and national TV stations. On every station there were stories on H1N1 influenza (swine flu), and the symptoms, possibility of vaccine release dates, number of people who might be infected, and the report just released by the President’s task force on pandemic flu. There were also stories about schools, specifically colleges in our area with cases of “swine flu” already being reported, and school just started yesterday. It is going to be a long winter!

The only problem is there seems to be little consistency about how we are going to handle swine flu this fall and winter. Despite specific guidelines outlined by the CDC, it does not seem that there is anyone really in charge. We don’t even have a Surgeon General to weigh in. State and local health departments seem to be offering different advice about testing and treating possible swine flu cases.

Colleges are already treating some students with tamiflu when the specific recommendations have been to only treat patients who are extremely ill, have underlying diseases that make them more at risk for complications or that are hospitalized. I have patients in the same family, who attend two different colleges, whose parents received different information from their colleges. One child is on tamiflu while the other is not. No wonder they are confused and so am I.

Many of my friends and patients have reported possible exposures to swine flu and some have called their doctors and are being put on tamiflu over the phone. I have continued to reiterate to them that we are all going to have continuous exposures that we are not even aware of as more and more people become ill and you can’t take tamiflu every time you go to the grocery store, school, cleaners, etc. There are also some not so nice side effects from tamiflu, which no one really wants if not necessary. At the same time, I am wondering if I should just start taking tamiflu for the next six months, as I am sure that doctors are being constantly exposed and no one is recommending that doctors take tamiflu either. Maybe it is time to bring out the masks? I am only kidding.

So.. amid all of the confusion I guess I will just keep washing my hands and practicing good hand hygiene. Maybe some of these inconsistencies will be resolved before we start seeing large numbers of cases? One can only hope!

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

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