Hope the Vaccine At Least Arrives in Time to Keep Health Care Workers Going

From Bloomberg:

“The Northern Hemisphere medical care requirements for the next six months are a train wreck waiting to happen,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy in Minneapolis. “In the fall, even if nothing else changes in terms of the virus’s severity and our preparedness, it’s going to be a real challenge.”

In the U.K., where swine flu sparked a summer wave of illness worse than the previous 10 winters, about 1 in 10 patients hospitalized for the virus end up in intensive care, according to Liam Donaldson, England’s chief medical officer. In Australia, that proportion is about 25 percent, he said.

“They have had a relatively high level of intensive care admissions amongst hospitalized patients,” Donaldson told reporters in London yesterday. “We might end up like that, but we can’t be 100 percent sure.”

Bypass Patients

While fewer than 0.5 percent of swine flu sufferers may need hospitalization, those who do can remain in intensive care for up to three weeks, occupying a bed that could be used for 15 heart bypass patients. Christchurch Hospital, the biggest on New Zealand’s South Island, postponed non-emergency procedures requiring an ICU stay such as heart bypass as flu patients — three-quarters needing mechanical ventilation — filled up the 12-bed unit and nine other hastily created intensive-care beds, according to Shaw.

What’s more, a 10th of those critically ill patients needed their blood pumped through an artificial lung, a procedure known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, that only one hospital in New Zealand offers.

“I’ve seen nothing like this,” said John Beca, head of pediatric intensive care at New Zealand’s national children’s hospital in Auckland. Five of Beca’s six ECMO units have been used simultaneously this winter. He’s ordering three more.

The government has been cautioning parents about not sending their children to school when they are sick. Riiiight. That’s going to work really well to prevent the spread of disease!

Last year during cold and flu season, a lot of kids had a diarrheal and vomiting norovirus-type illness. They threw up on the bus. They threw up in the classroom. They threw up in the lunchroom. When sent to the nurse’s office so that their parents could be called and they could be sent home, they said “I threw up last night, but mommy (or daddy) said I had to go to school today anyway.” We have had a child come to school with eyes swollen shut from conjunctivitis. Children get very droopy after the medicine mommy or grandma or other caregiver gave them to reduce their fever wears off. Some children sit at their desk and cry because they feel so bad, and there is nobody at the telephone numbers given for emergency contact.

I know what it is like to be in the situation that many of the parents are in, too. I have had a job where I was told that I was denied a raise because I missed more time because my children were sick than any of the other women in my department. (I was the only one young enough to have small children.) In many cases, mommy has to decide which is better for the child: Staying home when sick but being without food or utilities because she loses her job, or sending the child to school sick.

1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    bonz said,

    ‘In August 1957, the “Asian flu” was exactly where “swine-origin influenza A (H1N1)” is today.’

    Lessons From the Flu of ’57

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