Are we all sick to death of hearing about the H1N1 (Swine) Flu yet? This chick is getting there, but the news is like a horrendous car wreck; it’s hard not to be drawn in, even when you don’t want to be.
Within a couple of days of incessant news coverage, I heard something from an anchor on WCCO News that gave me pause. The anchor said that no one is immune to this flu. (They were still calling it Swine Flu at the time of the report – on April 29. ) I thought, How can the anchor make this statement? The medical community was still trying to get a handle on the outbreak, trying to figure out who had it, what states it had spread to, where it had originated.
Typically, with an infectious disease outbreak of any kind, the disease has been quietly making the rounds before people figure out that something is amiss. Also, the anchor’s statement ignored a basic tenant of infectious disease, something I learned in high school or shortly thereafter. No matter how virulent, how contagious, or how deadly a disease organism is, there will be some people, even a mere handful, who aren’t susceptible to it. (This has even been reported with HIV.)
In examining the statement, and the subsequent hypochondriacal thoughts I was having after hearing all the coverage, I thought back to the flu I’d had in February of this year. When I came down with it, I tucked myself into bed for six days, full of fever and coughs and chills and no appetite. This is the flu that almost caused me to pass out. Because there was no talk of H1N1 flu at the time, I didn’t hie myself off to the doctor to be tested. It would be sheer silliness to expose everyone at the clinic to the flu, let alone attempt to drive in my weakened condition. Hubby was the first one in the household to come down with this flu, our illnesses overlapping each other. He, too, didn’t drag himself to the doctor. Even if we had gone to the doctor, would we have been tested for H1N1? Not likely, in my opinion.
That begs the question: How do we know whether the flu we had was a garden variety of flu or whether it was H1N1? How would anyone know if they had this flu prior to all the attention it has received? What caused the doctors in Mexico to run the test necessary to pinpoint the specific type of flu? Ah, yes, the questions burn as hot as a fever.
Daughter had another good question related to all this H1N1 talk: What’s the difference between an epidemic and a pandemic? An epidemic, according to wordnetweb.princeton.edu, is “a widespread outbreak of infectious disease,” whereas a pandemic is “an epidemic that is geographically widespread.”