The Swine Flu global epidemic is the first of the 24/7 media era. It seems the mainstream media can’t quite seem to decide whether to whip us all up into a panic with stories of children dying or lead us to total complacency with stories of swine flu parties and reassurance that the majority of deaths “had underlying medical problems anyway,” as though that makes it OK somehow!
The reality is of course somewhere in between. There are healthy people dying. Not in large numbers. Over the coming weeks I suspect that there will almost certainly not be as many as the tens of thousands of deaths some experts are predicting in the UK.
But there will be many thousands of people in the UK and many other countries who will get a flu-like illness. In London and other parts of the UK swine flu is spreading like wildfire and the authorities have given up trying to contain the illness. As a result of how widespread it is, the lack of facilities to test so many people, and the time of year making other viral illness uncommon, the doctors have moved to “clinical diagnosis.”
Schools are no longer being closed here when a case arrises, but warning letters of the presence of infection among the children have been sent out from many schools including my own children’s. Prophylactic Tamiflu is no longer being used in London to prevent illness spreading.
Thus, this week when one of my daughters developed a sore throat, a fever and other symptoms of flu we did what we had been told to do and rung our G.P. She was given a clinical diagnosis of “suspected swine flu” though we will never know for sure as she was not swabbed. Basically the health service now believes swine flu is so prevalent where we live that anyone with such symptoms almost certainly has swine flu.
It was explained to us that Tamiflu was only available for her and not the rest of the family as it seems basically everybody in this part of the world would be exposed to this illness over the next few weeks so the idea of prophylaxis to prevent spread no longer made sense.
We were asked to isolate our daughter for about a week. But, we were told that other members of the family could go about their daily business, even if they also developed a sore throat, as long as they did not get a fever. We were told we should ring the GP for more Tamiflu if anyone else developed a temperature.
So far, no other members of our family have developed a fever, though several are complaining of sore throats and feeling excessively tired. Since one of our daughters can’t go out, and the summer holidays have just started, we have this evening decided to try and make the best of it and have a lazy weekend in the house.
I did pop out today to Kentucky Fried Chicken to feed us all. I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty, however. It is very likely that my current mild sore throat is caused by the swine flu virus. Knowing that you might be risking infecting people with an illness that although very mild for the vast majority could at least potentially be fatal for a tiny minority feels odd. What is strange, however, is that I have never spared much thought about passing on “ordinary” flu which is just as much a potential killer, especially for the elderly.
So, especially if you live in London, it seems that the official advice at the moment is if you or someone you know gets a fever, with symptoms of a cold or flu, then you should consider calling your GP for Tamiflu. I understand this drug is sometimes also used for ordinary flu with the goal of reducing the severity of the symptoms, the length of the illness, and hopefully reducing the risks of complications. Having said that, it seems that for most people this illness will be short, and mild even if no medication is taken.
Do pray for us that our family will be spared any more severe symptoms of this illness. Our daughter seems to be improving remarkably quickly. I guess I will never know whether the Tamiflu sped up her recovery, any more than I will know for sure whether it was really caused by the swine flu virus.