A Doctor’s Word: Virus as unpredictable as the weather

    Gift of Health

    Advertorial

    My 10-year-old son tracks the weather map each day and enjoys the predictability (colder temperatures in the winter) with the unpredictability (50 percent chance of rain). Such is the case for the flu season this year. We have the usual seasonal flu, which peaks in January and February and then nearly goes away in the summer months. And then there is the unpredictability of the H1N1 or swine flu. 

    The swine flu first occurred in Mexico this past spring and spread to North America. The World Health Organization soon declared it a pandemic. During June and July, it occurred at summer camps, which my children attended, yet luckily none became ill. But when schools began in the south in late August, a surge of cases began to occur. Hospitals had to set up tents in their parking lots as makeshift emergency rooms to triage sick children. The number of people coming into our clinics with flu-like illness was three to four times the usual for that time of year. Nearly all of the cases were suspected to be H1N1.
     
    The H1N1 flu has been unpredictable. Now, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the cases of flu-like illness have been decreasing in all parts of the nation.

    From early findings, it appears to be very contagious and seems to transmit easily from person to person, unlike the bird flu, but much like the seasonal flu virus.

    Additionally, from early findings, it does not appear to be highly virulent among the reported cases in the United States. The virus in most cases causes a mild illness, and most patients recover fully within a week or so, much like the seasonal flu virus and unlike the SARS virus. 

    Gift of Health

    It is unclear what will happen when the seasonal flu cases begin to occur in January and February. Will H1N1 cases come back or just go away altogether? Nobody knows, but my son is not worried. Three weeks ago, his school offered the nasal mist vaccine for H1N1. He and all his friends stood in line to be vaccinated. A few weeks earlier, he had his seasonal flu shot.
     
    Studies show that the vaccine for H1N1 is 97 percent effective, and after 22 million doses there are no serious side effects. Also, the rates of flu vaccinations are lower among minority populations. Even though the cases of flu-like illness are decreasing, there is plenty of flu activity to make a non-vaccinated person very sick.

    Even as the swine flu epidemic turns into a pandemic, I am reassured for a number of reasons.

    First, the pandemic flu preparedness has been unprecedented, with the use of technology and local, state, national and international collaboration. I am on a daily afternoon conference call or webcast at cdc.gov with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and I get routine CDC updates on Twitter.
    I tell my son, there is a 50 percent chance of rain – so taking an umbrella – the vaccine – is a good idea.

    Dr. Manoj K. Jain is an infectious-disease specialist in Memphis and an adjunct assistant professor at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta. He frequently writes health columns for the Washington Post.

    Gift of Health is supported by grants from The California Endowment – http://www.calendow.org/ – and California Community Foundation – http://www.calfund.org/.

    • Show Comments (0)

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    comment *

    • name *

    • email *

    • website *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Ads

    You May Also Like

    Vale, Brazil's mining company

    Brazil’s Mining Co. Vale Seems to Have Bought Overpriced Rio Tinto

    Brazilian mining company Vale do Rio Doce may have paid too much for its ...

    UNICEF display

    Brazil Congress Urges All-Hands-on-Deck Approach to Fight Child Sex

    Gathered in Brazil, a United Nations-backed forum to combat the sexual exploitation of children ...

    Foreign Investors Back in Brazil to the Tune of US$ 2.8 Bi This Month

    Foreign direct investments in Brazil are expected to attain US$ 2.8 billion this month, ...

    Petrobras platform

    Brazilian Oil Company Petrobras Reaches Production Record

    Average oil production at state-controlled multinational Petrobras' oil fields in Brazil in September reached ...

    Brazil's Guido Mantega

    Finance Minister Says Brazil Has Been Crippled by Rich Countries and Lack of Credit

    According to Brazilian Finance minister Guido Mantega, Brazil’s economy is walking with “two crippled ...

    Brazilian-made Embraer-190 jet

    Lufthansa Upgrades Order: It Now Wants 30 Brazilian Embraer 190 Jets

    Brazilian aircraft builder Embraer confirms that it has entered into a preliminary agreement with ...

    Stronger Ties

    "This is an exhilarating time in the Brazil-U.S. relationship: a time of change, a ...

    Lula Gives Push to Biodiesel Inaugurating Plant in Brazil’s Northeast

    Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will inaugurate today Brazil’s first biodiesel plant ...

    Morales and Lula

    With Several Differences with Bolivia Lula Will Skip Morales Inauguration

    Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the president of Brazil, will not be participating this ...

    xxx

    Cuban Player Defects During Pan-American Games and Disappear in Brazil

    Rafael D'Acosta Capote, 19, a handball player with the Cuban team participating in the ...