raising little ones in the great outdoors

Swine Flu: It just got real for me

“A case of Swine Flu has been confirmed late last night in a sixth grader at Madrona School. School officials have closed the school until Wednesday,” the NPR anchor said in clipped words that suggested he was trying his best to stay calm and not sound panicked or too excited. I went back to sleep.

Whether or not the current alarm over the Swine Flu is warranted, it still seems a touch surreal. It’s like I’ve seen it on one of the countless “unstoppable plague” movies. Television media has been over-the-top pinpointing cases, even going so far as to suggest it could be bio-terror. Even the typically staid, mellow NPR was in a tizzy. Our local anchor repeated over and over again. He repeated this again and again and again. “In case you haven’t heard…”

If I sound jaded or weary, it’s because if I am certain of one thing in life it is this: Besides washing my hands, I can do absolutely nothing to help prevent a pandemic. Maybe if the lines between Hollywood and real news blurred just a bit more I could fly a helicopter through a quarantined zone to rush a blood sample to the lab, but until then? I’m worthless.

Yet it’s real.

It’s real for that child at the Madrona School. It’s definitely real for his parents. For the families in Mexico who have lost love ones, it’s an outright personal tragedy.

It just got a little more real for me.

I live in a duplex. In the haze my NPR/snooze button session this morning, I forgot that my neighbor works at the Madrona School. An hour ago, he stood in the morning sun and scratched his head. The sixth grader was doing fine. The parents had caught it early.

“You know, it’s funny, I was saying yesterday, that earlier in the year, we had shots fired out in front of our school five days in a row. Right out in front, and all we did then was tell the kids not to linger after school,” Nick said referring to spate of gang violence that plagued central Seattle schools. He shrugged, looked out into the cloudless Northwest sky and shrugged again.

“I’ve got the next week off. I guess that’s nice,” said Nick in his happy-go-lucky way. “It’s not cool, but I’m not going to spend the week inside.”

Nick wandered off to enjoy a day in the sun before the rain returns.

I wanted to open this up for discussion. For parents though, the Swine Flu is just one of a million “what ifs” you face as a mother or a father. Kids go to school everyday and have to deal with bullies, classmates using drugs; the list goes on. So, does the Swine Flu scare you more or less? What makes this threat seem more severe than others? How are you explaining both the outbreak and the surrounding attention to your kids? Have they been asking about it?

I’m curious to hear everyone’s thoughts.

–Fitz Cahall
editor, The Outdoor Parent

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6 Responses to “Swine Flu: It just got real for me”

  1. Steve says:

    By this point in our lives, a baby waking up with a fever would normally not cause much alarm. But when Grace woke up yesterday morning with a fever, there was a moment of extra worry. It lasted a day and a half, and it was obviously not the flu.
    I heard an epidemiologist talk about working the anthrax cases in 2001. His team had many family members calling them to ask how to protect themselves. They came up with a general response – wear your seatbelt, eat healthy food, get enough exercise. Worry about the things you can control. I ride a bus to work, and who knows what the guy next to me is carrying. He could be contagious with something before he even shows symptoms and I’d never know it. About all you can do is the general hygiene stuff and hope you’re not the first one in your area that’s exposed.
    Our kids have asked about the flu, but they don’t seem worried. If the swine flu did show up in our area, we’d stay home from school and work. We’ve got some food stored so we could avoid all those potentially contagious people. We’d play in the backyard. Come to think of it, City of Rocks would probably be pretty safe.

  2. simon geering says:

    Well surely a bit of perspective is needed. According to the NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis there were ~40,000 persons killed in road accidents in the US in 2006 & 2007. So until we see that many people dying of swind flu you’re better of teching the kids to cross the road :-)

  3. Andy G says:

    I responded to the Swine Flu (sorry pork lovers, H1N1 virus) by leaving the “safety” on Cincinnati and attending a cancer nursing conference in San Antonio, TX. Yes, Texas, just a border away from the eye of the storm – Mexico. I think I survived, but I really should wait out the 10-day incubation period.

    We will indeed suffer a pandemic virus of major proportions at some point even perhaps sooner than later. The fact remains that regular old influenza, even this season passed to many more people and likely killed more people than H1N1 has now.

    So grab the Purell and pay attention. Eventually, the boy who cried “wolf” was correct and we know what happened to the people who didn’t listen…

  4. the use of face masks and boosting your immune system by taking lots of vitamin-C is still an effective way of preventing the spread of the Swine Flu virus.

  5. Steve Bohrer says:

    I just read my previous response and it’s amazing what a little perspective can do. Here it is almost 6 months later, we have a pandemic, but the flu we were all dreading isn’t as virulent as we had feared.

    As I write this, I’m recovering from my own bout with the H1N1. In fact, our kids’ school was cancelled today because so many kids and staff were sick. 6 of 7 of our family has had it. In general, we’ve had a day or so of fever, with a total of about 3-4 days of body aches. As far as flu goes, it’s not bad at all, I can remember being flattened for a week a few years ago.

    For me, it’s been interesting to look at this as a “dry run” for a more virulent flu or other pandemic. Contrary to my previous statement, we did not go into self-quarantine when the first cases showed up here. But that’s because experience had proven the H1N1 to be relatively mild. When our first child came down with symptoms, it was only a matter of a couple days before the rest of us had it. Any idea of keeping her downstairs in her room to minimize contact with the rest of the family went out the window. Between school, pre-school, church, work, commuting, and general socializing our families are exposed so thoroughly that unless we went into hiding at the first sign of a contagious disease hitting our shores, it’s almost impossible to avoid the germs. We have sanitizer in every vehicle, by the door to use when we come in, etc. And we encouraged hand-washing. Nevertheless, here I am on the couch in my pajamas.

    What would we do differently? Hard to say, but it’s clear that the main reason we didn’t take extraordinary precautions was that the virus isn’t that virulent. But, if we did have an outbreak of something truly dangerous, I would be much more likely to self-quarantine based on our experience this time. We would be much more vigilant about hygiene and avoiding exposure. Because now we’ve had a close-up example of just how fast a virus can spread.

    • Rob S says:

      I’m not a paranoid person, and I typically don’t go running off to the doctor, I am going to admit to having been in the ER and to a Doctor’s office 2 times in the past 24 hours. I’m going to blame it on all the H1N1 hype.

      It all started two Sunday’s ago, when my 3 1/2 year old uncharacteristically crawled up on my chest and passed out. Yep – she had a fever and (later) some goopy eyes for which we took her to the Doc to get some drops so her eyes wouldn’t seal shut. Other than the fever occasionally spiking, and having to keep her out of school, she did fine.

      By Thursday night, she’s fever free and I am planning to get my life back in order. That evening, I get the fever. To make it worse, my daughter spikes her last fever. From here, she improves, but I have the fever up and down for two days that turns into a visious upper respiratory infection. Willing to self diagnose, I checked the CDC, which says to stay away from folks for 24 hours after the fever abated.

      Bonus, even thought I am caughing non-stop, I kicked the fever by Saturday night, and I don’t have to burn a PTO (aka vacation) day on Monday to stay home from work. By 3:30 I was shot and left work to come home and crawl in bed.

      Side-note: I owe the H1N1 for my discovery and current addiction to listening to every dirt bag diary as superior alternative to television.

      On Tuesday, I was back at work ready to defend my PTO for that next powder day. This time, by 3pm, I could feel the fever, the shakes, and the weakness kicking in big time. I barely made it down the street and into my car. At home, my fever was over 102.

      It was my wife who insisted we go to the ER. It was 9pm and she didn’t want to go in the middle of the night when it would be difficult to find someone to watch Anne. Our neighbor came over to watch Anne, and off we went.

      So now, my sage advise: The ER doc was unimpressed. I’m probable flu case number 1,XXX for him. He said “You probably have the H1N1. In fact, everyone is probably going to get it. In fact, we’re not testing for H1N1 any more. Rest, drink 2x the normal fluids, don’t cough or sneeze on your spouse, wash your hands, and don’t go to work stupid.” He took an x-ray to confirm I didn’t have Pneumonia — negative.

      Why did I go back? I awoke at 3:30 AM with a painful (7 our of 10) side at the bottom of my right lung. It wouldn’t go away. My wife made an appointment, and I lay on the couch listening to more Dirt bag diaries until noon.

      The new Doc was no more impressed than the last one. Likely I had bruised or irritated the lung lining due to all my coughing — The Ibuprofin that I had been taking every 6 hrs (interspersed with Tylenol also every 6 hrs) was the best trick. Otherwise all the other advise was the same…

      Bottom Line: The flu sucks. The H1N1 sucks. It will wipe you out for days. Even longer if you don’t chill like me. If you can avoid it — consider yourself lucky.

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