Until SARS hit Toronto it was hard to fathom what a pandemic truly meant. Since the 1918 influenza pandemic our country has not experienced the life threatening panic of a strain of flu that indiscriminately spreads and possibly brings death to those infected. Of course until SARS I did not even know that there had been a pandemic in 1918 that killed approximately 50,000 Canadians, most of whom were between the age of 20-40.
Call it naive or ignorant, our mortality seemed protected by our intellect, good hygiene, as well as accessibility to a great medical system, I think it may have been a combination of both!
Now we as a society are hypersensitive. We seem to be a culture of extremes, either we completely ignore possibilities or we focus on every minute possibility and panic over these rarities to point of neurosis and the media feeds this neurosis with stories that are written as the common experience rather than the outlying possibilities. I am talking about H1N1!
I am not saying that we should not be aware, to practice good hand washing, to stay home when sick, but I am saying that not every sniffle is life threatening, not every fever will result in a diagnosis of H1N1 and even if it does, it does not mean that the influenza will result in life threatening conditions. I am more concerned about some of the irrational panic then I am the flu.
I had a very sick little boy last week, he had fevered for days. After 4 days of fever we had called Telehealth with his symptoms and were reassured it was just croup. After a week of fever we took him to the hospital and there we were told that it was the flu (not H1N1) and that we would have to wait it out. When friends and family found out that he was sick, I started getting emails about the difference between H1N1 and the flu, I had people suggesting that he might have the dreaded influenza, all with the best intention of course, but it kept me aware and as much as I tried to remain level headed about his condition, panic was taking over my thoughts, my sleep, my dreams. When the thirteen year old boy died in Toronto, I received several calls, emails pointing out this piece of news, making me feel like I was not advocating enough for my son's health, or that I was missing something. It made me feel horrible.
I feel for that family, the parents and the brother of that young man, how untimely and sad, and by the sounds of the reports they did what they could, they took him to the hospital, they had him rest but something went wrong for him and tragically he died. It is important to be cautious with this influenza because like any flu, it can result in death, but his story was written by the media to create panic, it was written to make this influenza appear a death sentence and what it has done is created a burdened medical system; hospitals are experiencing 12 hour waits, clinics are closing the doors half way through the day to accommodate all the people in their wait rooms and even Telehealth has a two hour wait to talk with a nurse.
I think we need to be aware, keep up with our good hygiene, stop pushing our kids to go to school when they are sick, stay home ourselves when we are ill, but we should not overreact, start diagnosing ourselves with H1N1, start panicking that we are all doomed, stop buying in to the way the media packages the info surrounding this flu.
My son ended up having pneumonia as a side effect of the flu he had and with antibiotics he is 100% better. When I said to the doctor that at least it was pneumonia and not H1N1, he pointed out that pneumonia is just as and sometimes more serious and he was right. I was being blindly affected by the media and I needed to tune my awareness to the present and not the possibilities. I do have to thank H1N1 because the panic sent me back to the doctors on the 10th day of fever only to get the pneumonia diagnosis in time, for that I am thankful.