Friday, 24 July 2009

Swine 'Flu

I've outlined some of my concerns about the H1N1 pandemic before on this blog. The people at the Daily Mash made me smile today and realise that my concerns are certainly not shared by all...

Emma Bradford, from London, said: "I have definitely got it because my Blackberry said so. I shall be collecting my Tamiflu from the chemist and then taking advantage of a last minute recuperation deal to Menorca."
Tom Logan, from Finsbury Park, said: "I would say I'm about 30% sure I'm not feeling well, but I'm 100% sure that I have just come up with a copper-bottomed reason to extend my summer holidays.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Swine 'flu

I don’t know about you, but I’m quietly getting more and more concerned about swine flu. A month ago, the World Health Organisation declared a global pandemic. I know it’s been out of the media spotlight for a while, but that doesn’t mean that it’s gone away, far from it.

You see, initially we were finding 5 or 10 new cases each day in this country, recently there’s been over 100 new cases daily and this week, the department of health has said that so many people have it that they can no longer keep count. At the moment, for most people, swine flu is a minor disease, but there are a few things that are concerning me greatly.

  1. As I mentioned earlier, the number of new cases being found appears to be snowballing
  2. If you read about previous flu pandemics, it seems to be the pattern that the flu is mild in the summer time, but then comes back again with a vengeance in the winter and that’s when most people die
  3. Word from the intensive care doctors is that in those who need ITU admission quickly develop kidney failure and multiple organ failure – basically, they get very, very sick very quickly and stay that way for ages.
  4. If the pandemic gets really serious and comes to my corner of the UK, I doubt that we’ll have enough space in intensive care to look after these people.

I’m also becoming more and more concerned about my own safety because:

  1. History shows that those that die from flu epidemics tend to be young, previously healthy men – like me.
  2. If the pandemic does get worse then, as an anaesthetist, I’ll be the person called to intubate these people and put them on ventilators. This puts me at an incredibly high risk of getting the virus. Remember all the anaesthetists and other healthcare workers who got SARS for this exact reason? Do you remember those who died?
Dr Tse volunteered herself in taking charge of the SARS ward and delivering direct medical care and treatment for SARS patients in Tuen Mun Hospital. In the full knowledge of the enormous risks for herself in performing the procedure, she repeatedly carried out intubation of her SARS patients in distress. She had worked with exceptional dedication, steadfastness and commitment in a selfless and fearless manner. By voluntarily putting her own life in extreme danger in order to save others, Dr Tse displayed noble gallantry of the highest order in carrying out her last duties.

Doctors like me are expected to turn up to work and carry on. We are expected to do the best we can in whatever situation we find ourselves in, regardless of the risks that we face by doing so. Talking to my colleagues, I have no doubt that this is exactly what we will do – we will do the best for our patients – but as each day goes by and as the death toll keeps rising, the swine-flu pandemic is giving me cause for concern.

If I think about what could potentially happen with this pandemic, it gives me the chills. I really, really hope that it all fizzles out and things don’t get much worse that they are already.

I’m keeping everything crossed.