Aren’t we in a flu pandemic?

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by admin on August 26, 2009

The Editor,

Aren’t we supposed to be in the middle of a level 6 worldwide pandemic of H1N1 flu? Aren’t we supposed to take special precautions to avoid catching it, spreading it and be ready when it hits in full force in the fall?

Recently, my wife came home with all the symptoms: strong headache, nausea, general weakness, coughing, the works… After trying to sleep it off for a day and clearly getting worse, she went to our local hospital where, conscious that flu at this time of year had a chance of being H1N1, told the receptionist and triage of her condition… but was left waiting for about five hours, coughing hard, in the crowded waiting room. The doctor then told her there was nothing he could do; she had the flu, end of story.

“What about the people I have been in contact with in the last few days?” asked my wife.  Apparently, there is no procedure in place yet, just vague recommendations.

Meanwhile, I was reading in a French magazine that vacationers returning home and developing the dreaded symptoms were directed by their doctors to a special isolated section of their local hospital, ordered to stay home for few days and wear a mask if in contact with people, plus the persons they had been in close proximity were contacted and put on Tamiflu (to alleviate the symptoms if they had been contaminated). And France has not even elevated the H1N1 pandemic to the highest level yet!

You might think that the French answer (which is apparently also the standard elsewhere in Europe) is a bit over the top; but, on the other hand, it seems that they are actively working to be ready for the real wave of flu in the fall.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government has proudly, and with much fanfare, launched a web site to inform the small and medium companies on some ways to avoid / cope with the absenteeism during flu season and the debate is still going on about who will get the flu shot first.

The continuation of my wife’s story, by the way, is after more than a week in bed, she was still coughing heavily so, on the advice of our family doctor, went back to the hospital for a chest X-ray. After the customary wait, she was told that it was not necessary and that, after so many days, was not contagious any more. So she went back to work… only to feel terrible again. She went back to the hospital to get the chest X-ray, which she finally got (two weeks after her first visit and an additional eight hours of waiting in the now familiar crowded room) to be diagnosed with pneumonia and “promptly” put on strong antibiotics.

Morality: take care of your own health, pray that the H1N1 doesn’t hit too harshly in the region and don’t believe anybody, especially politicians, trying to convince you that we have the best healthcare system in the world.

Yan Huckendubler

Chelsea