Swine Flu 4.9: Return to Sanity

Passed another milestone yesterday: 17 positive tests for Flu A — not our record (that’s 21), but for the first time, over 50% positive rate — meaning that of all children who came with a febrile illness, over half actually had swine flu.

At the same time, far fewer people are coming in with runny noses and nothing else, to us and, according to the news, to local emergency rooms, which is excellent news for everyone concerned.  Very few are asking for Tamiflu when inappropriate.  And only one school principal asked for a “confirmation” that a child DEFINITELY had “swine flu” and not seasonal Flu A.  I guess most have by now read the excellent Health Department Memo on the subject — except the part about not needing a letter to return to school; that seems to them to be so totally against nature that the idea of returning to school at parents’ discretion is just not flying; we are still writing back-to-school notes by the ream.

The places to watch now are South America, Australia and South Africa: their winter is coming, and flu tends to be far more contagious in winter and early spring.  They will predict how concerned we need to be about the return of this flu later in the year.  Then again, with more frequent vomiting and diarrhea than seasonal flu, the swine flu may behave like an enterovirus — which tend to have summer epidemics.  We’ll know soon.

I will say this once again: New York City Department of Health has done an amazing job in this epidemic.  Its actions and policies will become the model for what everyone else does when the epidemic reaches them.  The schools did not do as well.  At least one school principal asked EVERY child in their school to be checked by their physician over the Memorial Day weekend, thus failing (a) arithmetic (the ratio in New York being several thousand children per pediatrician), (b) biology (flu having no early warning signs before the start of symptoms, and the rapid test being useless in asymptomatic or early-symptomatic patients) and (c) common sense (which, come to think of it, has not been a part of educational system in years).