Friday, November 6, 2009

Mexicans, Pigs and General Confusion

Mexicaanse griep or swine flu, as the English speaking population knows it, has hit our household. We think. It depends who you talk to, what newspaper you read and which doctor's surgery you call.

Last Sunday my husband was very clearly suffering from flu. He came back from a business trip a little under the weather, and with what he thought was a bout of mild food poisoning after some dodgy looking chicken. When he still had stomach cramps and diarrhea four days later alarm bells started ringing and he called the huisartspost. They asked him a series of questions, all of which he could answer positively to, which turned out of course to be quite negative and he was asked to come in so they could check his lungs.

On arrival he was given a mouth cap. When he offered a hand (as the Dutch do to say hello), it was politely declined (as is the general precaution now in at least our local hospital, which incidentally hit the headlines today for banning children visitors to the hospital) and he was promptly checked. His temperature was elevated, but his lungs were clear of fluid - this being the give-away tell tale sign of swine flu the doctor explained. He was given a prescription and sent on his way, everything he had touched disinfected as he went.

A couple of days later our son started showing complaining of a sore throat and had a touch of diarrhea. So we called our own doctor. The doctor's surgery explained that every case of flu that had been tested so far was in fact swine flu, and the fact that diarrhea was involved in my husband's case meant that he also has swine flu. The assistant said she could not understand why the hospital had dismissed it as regular, garden variety flu. Very reassuring indeed.

According to one newspaper report, regular flu is yet to hit the Netherlands - we are expecting its arrival in the coming week to the Dutch shores.

Our son (and I) seem to have (so far touch wood) evaded a full blown bout. However, the week has opened to my eyes to the commotion and confusion there is in the medical profession, let alone the general public about swine flu.

The Ministry of Health is yet to make a final announcement on the vaccination of children, and depending on what newspaper you read, also clarity about pregnant women and the vaccination. The Netherlands is vaccinating the high risk group twice, whilst other countries deem once to be enough, and we still have no concrete conclusions about the side effects of this vaccination which is being offered en masse. I have received my summons for the vaccination on Monday, but as things stand I don't feel I am in any position to make an informed decision about getting the jab or not.

There remains many questions (like why are so many medical professionals resistant to getting vaccinated themselves...?) to be answered, and the media are getting their pages' worth of 'news' in about it all.

The fact is that some apparently healthy people have died from the virus, whilst others have shrugged it off after a few days. Remember too, that regular flu also claims lives. Generally, the symptoms and effects of swine flu will be no worse than regular flu, but conflicting advice leads to panic and confusion.

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Any of you already been vaccinated or had experience with swine flu here? What are your experiences with advice from medical staff here?

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