Letters and Fetters

Letters and Fetters

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

You, too, have swine flu, or do you?

Does anyone really know the symptoms, best prevention techniques or treatments?

I am suffering with a cold, not swine flu, but I’m sick as a dog. No one ever says sick as a pig, but that could change.
A web site on how to tell the difference between colds and swine flu says that if you sneeze and sniffle, it’s probably a cold, and since I do both, it’s a cold. No fever either, and fever’s a biggie with swine flu.
Another site describes how to tell swine flu from seasonal flu, and this time sniffles are a symptom of swine flu; so how does one really know?
One sign of swine flu is sudden onset. Well, this was sudden onset. One day I was just fine; the next, I’m whomped.
Dizziness, too, is a sign of swine flu and I’m sure dizzy. But a cold can play havoc with your inner ear and cause dizziness, too, so no swine flu.
I had chills last night, and chills are a sign of swine flu but only because they signify fever. I had feverless chills. I think it was a thermostat problem.
I figure I’m not the only sick person out there playing with the swine flu web site yo-yo. Flu, or no flu? I looked at a risk chart, and I’m nowhere to be found on there. Unless she has some underlying health condition, a 50-year-old woman isn’t at much risk.
Pigs in Minnesota have come down with it. Since the malady is called swine flu, you wouldn’t think that would be such an extraordinary story. Instead of predictable warnings not to panic because you can’t get the flu from eating pork (as it says on an old Center for Disease Control site), you are told not to worry because these pigs were special show pigs and not of the general slaughter population.
The article implies that, yes, you can get flu through pork if it’s fancy, 4-H show pork. That makes me wonder if those countries culling all their pigs and birds were onto something.
I thought flu was a respiratory disease. I thought you couldn’t get it through food consumption -- that stomach acid would kill off the virus -- but now I’m feeling a little ill at ease.
The only thing keeping my pork chops from infecting me is that they aren’t show pork chops. Some believe the Minnesota pigs contracted swine flu through sick 4-H members, and if so, it might work the other way, too. Conclusion? We must be careful not to hang around pigs who sneeze.
Canadian researchers believe that if you get a seasonal flu vaccination you are more likely to get swine flu. But other sources say that getting one might help you fend off swine flu. Well, which is it? I’m not going to get a seasonal shot if it’s going to make me more susceptible. Maybe you’re only more susceptible in Canada.
The treatment of choice for flu prevention is hand sanitizer. For months, my hands have been so dried out from hand sanitizer that they crack and bleed, putting me more at risk.
The sneezing into the elbow measure, though, is wonderful. There should be a Nobel prize for whoever came up with that.
I won’t be making the decision on whether to get a swine flu vaccine. By the time enough is available for my risk group, the virus will have run its course. For now, I’ll stick with chicken soup, and I hope the chickens weren’t hanging out with sneezing pigs.

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This column did not run in the Aberdeen American News. The editors, good folks all, decided that it would alienate pork producers already facing trouble. Plus, and I have to admit, it was a bit on the insensitive side. They didn't like calling the swine flu "swine flu" and prefered h1n1, not nearly as melliflous. I can't blame them. But the pork producers really need to take up the matter with those who wrote the story about the Minnesota pigs. There, you expected the caveat that you can't get H1N1 from pigs, but they omitted that tiny little detail. Why? Did they know something the rest of us don't? Either way, it was a curious omission. They said instead not to worry because the pigs who had the flu were not in the general pig population. That sends a big red flag. I just pointed out the omission. Anyway, for readers who wanted to see a dangerous (to pork producers anyway) censored, forbidden swine flu column, here it is.

A side note: After writing this column, I developed the only swine flu symptom I didn't previously have: a fever. I spent yesterday doing nothing but lying in bed trying to breathe. I spent today also in bed crunching out, between coughs, a new column. Karma? Irony? Pork producers, take delight.

Ironic addition: I now have flu-related pneumonia and am home on a nebulizer. And I still don't know if I got it from bacon or somewhere else.

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