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H1N1 swine flu — update

Following up on yesterday’s swine flu post, I received a number of comments, thank you everyone.

My second daughter, while sick, has tested negative for H1N1. Of course that means she could still get H1N1 elsewhere. I'm still sick also, but it seems to be whatever she has. But it does mean that I'm not in Yosemite shooting new lenses with this beautiful and warm California weather!

Swine flu and hog
Happy Hog

I’m informed by MD and reader Steve F (whose comments I value and appreciate) that knowing whether one has H1N1 is of no value because the treatment is the same regardless. I have several thoughts there. First, knowing what ails oneself has distinct psychological value. Second, if one has already had H1N1, then the vaccine should not be needed, thus saving a dose for someone else, as well as any associated vaccination risks. Third, there is no guarantee that treatment will remain the same for H1N1 should it mutate in any way, or develop resistance to some drugs, etc, such as the discovery of a strain resistant to Tamiflu not long ago. Fourth, knowing the infection is H1N1 could be useful in self-protection strategies should there be an outbreak “close to home”. Those reasons are valid to me; I’m not talking about public policy (which cares not a whit for an individual, trying to balance cost for a large population) so much as taking care of myself and my family, and helping others to do the same.

I was admonished for saying the virus could “mutate at any time” (“not proper biology speak”). I’m a little baffled by that criticism, I was writing in English, so I plead guilty. What I meant was that infection among hundreds of millions of people increases the odds of a lethal new strain emerging, much as a Tamiflu-resistant strain has emerged (see also).

I should also clarify that what I meant by “trusting my instincts” is not in any way to say I’d be going by gut feeling instead of a doctor’s advice. I simply meant that public policy and official statements won’t dissuade me from taking in all reasonable sources of information to arrive at a decision based on analysis, not sound bites. Physicians do their best, but they are not infallible, and I maintain that the medical community (in general) is slow to move even when new evidence presents itself.

It's clear that concern about the vaccine lingers, especially questions about mercury (thimerosal) in it. I certainly have concerns about any mercury compound, and assurances even from an MD that it is “OK” in tiny amounts enter the “we think so” domain for me; it’s clear that it’s toxic and medical science is only beginning to understand toxicity levels of many compounds especially when combined with personal genetics and health. The vaccine is still unavailable to the public in my area, so it's not an immediate concern. At any rate, there are single-dose syringes available, and I would insist on one of those if you get the vaccine. Don’t let public policy trump your own personal health; you have a right to your

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