Sunday, May 10, 2009

Swine Flu B.S.

(* I found this pic on the internet. LOL)

I have had the sniffles and a sore throat for the past couple of days. I am obviously not feeling well, and as I cruise the halls of the the hospital while working, and encounter other healthcare professionals, I have heard nothing but the following: "You don't have the pig flu, do you?"

No. I do not have swine flu. Stop asking me. But I do have a patient whom we suspect does, and I will go no further than that. But let's talk about the pig flu, shall we? It has, thus far, caused no abnormal symptoms, save for the standard flu symptoms. And while the global death rate for influenza of which we are accustomed climbs into the thousands and thousands, at last check, swine flu has only caused a couple of hundred deaths worldwide. So why are we freaking out?

Well, this marks one of the first instances where we can catch an illness that has morphed from animals. (Not the first. Remember avian flu???) But everyone is in a dither about this. Everywhere I go on campus, there are signs posted on doors, windows, walls, about prevention of the swine flu. Seriously. Even my husband is not exempt. I mentioned that we had a suspected case, and he practically wanted to red-bag my clothes and burn them when I got home. I wanted them off as soon as possible just because I was dealing with influenza, and I have a child and husband at home who have not had the wealth of vaccines I have had due to my position in healthcare.

Maybe it is just me. I don't get worked up about MRSA or TB or influenza. I use precautions when dealing with these patients because I want to protect my other patients and my family by not becoming a vessel of illness. But most of this stuff is just common sense. Wash your hands, especially after touching something that a gazillion others touch, like door knobs, light switches...Make your loved ones and friends throw away their dirty tissues instead of laying them around. Sneeze or cough into a sleeve of tissue, then wash your hands anyway. Stay away from hospitals if you can. We try really hard, but hospitals are full of sick people. Those of us in their employ have someone in infection control to ensure we are protected. We try to protect visitors and patients too, but some people just do not listen. (Case in point: the suspected TB patient who SNUCK out of her room for a smoke!) Do not, by any means, be the idiot who has your 2 year old cruising the halls barefooted. No doubt, they are treading on c. diff and MRSA and VRSA and streptococci and anything else you can think of that settles to the floor of a busy ER.

So why am I not scared, other than reasons I just mentioned? There is not one single part of me that does not believe that I do not have MRSA all over me. If I were to get sick enough that they were to test me, I am sure I am completely colonized with it. I have had my flu vaccine, and I wash my hands before entering a room and before leaving. (That's a lot, for those of you who do not realize what it is that I do.) And in between those frequent washes, I sanitize. When someone is going to be coughing in my face, which is pretty much all of the time, I wear a mask. If I am going to get something on me, I wear a gown. When I get something on me when it was not anticipated, I bag my laundry, and either turn it in to the disinfecting gurus at the hospital or I wash it seperately with peroxide, then wash it again, by itself. And I wear gloves pretty much all of the time. My son and husband do not come to visit me at work. Common Sense, really. All of it.

Quit freaking out over swine flu. Because each year, as we get vaccines for new stuff, there will be other new stuff to emerge from which we are not protected. Viruses and bacteria are a clever sort. The morph and evolve too. Are we going to panic about every single one of them? Really? Calm down, says the Respiratory Therapist soon to have a degree in Molecular Biology. It'll really be okay.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pam, I stumbled upon this post and read it with great interest. I suffered a near-fatal encounter with CA-MRSA after contracting it at a local hospital. I ended up with a deep surgical site infection and several abdominal abscesses, sepsis, DIC, and well I think you get the picture. It wasn't pretty....

I wish that the nurses and other practitioners who were charged with my care had your attitude and work ethic. If they did, I believe that I never would have gotten sick and lost my career, my health, and my life as I knew if before MRSA. I am glad to see someone with your work ethic talk about these issues -- perhaps others in your profession will finally get that they can kill people simply by not washing their hands.

I think that the health profession as a whole has been too slow to respond to the hospital-acquired infection epidemic. I think that there is a certain amount of denial that goes on among people who chose a career because they wanted to help people and to have to acknowledge that they might, in fact, be also killing some of them because of their own carelessness. I know good, decent nurses and doctors who are as caring as anyone could be and they just don't get why patients are so angry when they become infected at the hands of other health care professionals. Peer pressure and good infection prevention is the only way to stop this....

MTW, have you considered doing a decolonization or getting tested for MRSA? I thinkt hat it is possible to keep bacterial counts down by using Hybliclens on a regular basis and the nasal ointment. I was loaded with MRSA and my swab came back ok after aggressive antibiotic therapy and using the hybliclens (not to mention having everything in my home or that was at he hospital cleaned several times over.) My partner also tested negative, which is a good sign since she was with my in the hospital and no contact precautions were implemented while I was there (crazy, I know). The only reason that I ask is because I do think that it is possible to control the spread of this bacteria and that decolonization is part of that.

Anyway, thanks again!