Sunday, April 26, 2009

  • Dealing with swine flu: My friend RALPH begs for help & the CDC gives advice

    (Photos are of Dr. Mena prescribing chicken soup and a box of Po Chai pills -- containing ten little bottles of pills in each box)

A friend of mine just called me. "Jane, I keep throwing up!" he whined into the phone. Oh crap. He's got the swine flu.

"What happened? What are your symptoms?"

"A friend of a friend of mine just got back from Mexico City last week. Then he got sick and then three days later my friend got sick. And now I'm sick. It all starts with throwing up." Throwing up? Yuck.

"At first I thought I had food poisoning," continued my friend. "I thought it was the macaroni and cheese I ate last night that caused it." That's wrongful thinking. Everyone knows that mac-cheese is a comfort food and will cure almost any disease short of leprosy. Couldn't have been the mac-cheese.

"But then I started reading the symptoms for the new swine flu -- and I have all those too. According to the Center for Disease Control, the symptoms are the same as any flu except that you also have to throw up. I think I've got swine flu!" I googled it. He was right.

"The symptoms of swine flu in people are expected to be similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza," said the CDC, "and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea."

So then my friend called a public health advice nurse and she was very sympathetic but not much help. "Drink plenty of liquids and avoid citrus." That leaves me out. I just started the Master Cleanse Diet and it involves drinking six to 12 glasses of lemonade a day for ten days -- with two tablespoons of lemon, two tablespoons of grade B maple syrup and one-tenth of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper per glass. And you're not supposed to eat anything else -- but forget that. A little knosh on the side a few times a day couldn't hurt.

Then I checked the CDC site. "At this time, CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for the treatment and/or prevention of infection with swine influenza viruses." Forget that too. If my friend is throwing up constantly, there's only one way to cure that -- Po Chai pills and chicken soup. You can get Po Chai pills at any Chinatown. They are the Asian equivalent of Alka-Seltzer. Take a few little bottles of them and they will really clean you out. And then you'll feel better.

I rushed a supply of chicken soup and Po Chai pills over to my friend. And then he threw up again. And then he felt better.

But by then I was really curious about this whole swine flu epidemic. So I called up the CDC so I could get any updated information by talking with a human. No humans available, just numbers to punch. But suppose that my friend had actually been dying? And no one was there to answer his dying plea for help! "Stop exaggerating, Jane." But I did get a media information number to call and I actually got a live human voice. But the live human then told me to call another number -- which only got me back to the original number. So I called the media number again.

"Center for Disease Control. How can I help you?"

"You can help me to Control some Disease!" I almost shouted. But I didn't. "My friend may be sick with the swine flu. What should he do?"

"You need to take him to an emergency room and get him tested to make sure that it actually is swine flu -- and then they can treat him." Oh great. My friend doesn't have any health insurance. Should I start planning his funeral?

"Has anyone in the United States died of swine flu yet?" was my next question to the CDC guy.

"No." That's a relief.

PS: When things get tough, I always combat fear with humor. "How can you tell if you have swine flu?"

"It causes you to call out the same name again and again."

"And what name is that?"


PPS: Perhaps some kind of good might actually come out of this disastrous national swine flu epidemic crisis. Perhaps the reality of seeing all those sick people with no healthcare will finally light a fire under Congress to finally do the right thing and pass a single-payer healthcare reform bill ASAP -- like they should have done decades ago.