Posted by: mkirschmd | April 28, 2009

Swine Flu Hits Home

250px-sow_with_piglet12More accurately, swine flu hit our office.  Let me explain.  Our personnel are all feeling well.  We haven’t seen any patient yet who will be Ohio’s next new swine flu statistic.  Nevertheless, our office took a direct swine flu hit today.


My nurse, Adrienne, had longstanding plans to travel to Mexico this weekend with her husband and children.  She deserves it.  Earlier today she asked me about any necessary precautions against traveler’s diarrhea since I am a gastroenterologist.   We discussed the risks of swine flu even though her destination Cancún had not officially reported a case, although some New Yorkers with suspected swine flu had just vacationed there.  While she and her family would clearly face risk, health authorities had not yet issued any travel advisory that declared that Mexico should be a tourist-free-zone.  Of course, Adrienne should have consulted a trained travel doctor, rather than get informal advice from me in the hallway, just days before her departure.  


What a difference an hour or two makes.  By late this afternoon, the U.S. government was advising against any non-essential travel to Mexico.  While Adrienne may have felt that her trip was extremely essential for her mental well being, this would not meet the government’s standard.


The swine flu situation is so fluid that updates change hourly.  As of this writing, suspected swine flu cases have been reported in Canada, Israel, New Zealand, Spain, Scotland, France and Brazil.  Some countries are banning the importation of Mexican pork, although infectious disease experts state that it is not possible to contract swine flu from a BLT sandwich or short ribs.   It appears that anxiety and confusion can lead to porkophobia.  At least no one has threatened to ban the Dr. Seuss classic, Green Eggs and Ham, at least for now. 


If you are reading this posting, then I suggest that you read it quickly, since it will be out of date by the next hour.


Just a few days ago, the outbreak seemed confined to Mexico.  Now, a worldwide pandemic of swine flu may be inevitable.  Each day we will hear of new countries with suspected cases.  With the global presence of this contagious virus, there is no way to contain it, as can be attempted when a disease is restricted to a few isolated regions. 


If you have upcoming travel plans, invest a half hour with a travel doctor who can advise you if your vacation, business trip, honeymoon or study abroad should be reconsidered.  As for Adrienne, at least she doesn’t have to worry about traveler’s diarrhea.


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