Yesterday, we all received news that a middle-aged Contra Costa man, suffering from swine flu, had died. He apparently had no other major health problems, similar to otherwise healthy 9-year-old Karen Perez of Concord, who was suffering from the H1N1 virus, when she died on May 29.
Contra Costa Health Services said this man’s death brings to eight the number of swine flu-related deaths in California. Forty-four people have died around the United States.
I was on the Health Services’ swine flu web page on Sunday, wondering–being alarmist, hysterical, and Crazy, no doubt–whether the notorious virus, which has reached the level of global pandemic, was making its way through my family.
This past weekend, after my son’s “promotion” ceremony from fifth grade, he, my husband, and I went to Monterey for the weekend to celebrate. We didn’t do a whole lot of celebrating.
On Saturday, my son seemed tired, not quite himself. We made a cursory effort to visit the aquarium, walk around Cannery Row, visit some old historic parts of town. But this 11-year-old just wanted to hang out in our motel room. Unlike on past trips, he didn’t want to go to the pool, or visit the beach. I thought, maybe he was sad about his elementary school career ending. I know I was sad about his leaving elementary school, as I have previously written.
On Sunday morning, my son woke up with sniffles and a cough, but we thought, well, it might be allergies. On Sunday afternoon, we drove to the Oakland International airport, where we were to escort him to catch a flight to San Diego. He was going for a 10-day visit to his aunt and uncle, who live in Ocean Beach, a few blocks from the Pacific. On the drive to the airport, my son conked out in the car and slept–really slept. That’s not like him.
As we were lining up at the Southwest Airlines check-in counter to get his boarding pass and our security passes to accompany our “unaccompanied minor” to his gate, I noticed the swine flu warning signs posted on the sides of the counter and around the rest of the airport. Last week, we heard that two residents of Alameda County with swine flu had died.
Well, what do you know? As my husband and I were finalizing our son’s check-in, my son said he was feeling sick. Very sick. As in, I gotta-throw-up-right-now sick.
We retreated to some seats, and I felt his forehead and hands. (Ever since my son was little, find that feeling the temperature of his hands tells me whether he’s feverish). And, indeed, he felt hot to me, and we decided he was not okay to get on a plane. We returned home, and, yes, he had a fever of about 100 degrees. He drank a couple sips of water, got into bed, and slept the rest of the night.
In the meantime, I called our doctor’s advice nurse, and was told that he probably didn’t need to be seen unless he was showing severe symptoms and was not able to hold down any fluids. And, yes, I visited the swine flu web pages of both the Contra Costa Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I was also re-reading a very informative blog by SFGate.com’s medical columnist Jan Gurley on how to tell swine flu from regular flu. I wrote about her blog in this earlier post. All sources advised anyone with flu-like symptoms to not go to school or work and to avoid publlic gatherings.
Fortunately, my son felt better Monday morning–no fever–and acted back-to-normal by Monday afternoon. After he was symptom-free for more than 24 hours, as the CDC says in its travel advisory, he flew to San Diego yesterday afternoon.
In the meantime, both my husband and I woke this morning with sore throats and sniffles. I usually shake these infections off pretty quickly, but I worry about my husband getting colds and other upper respiratory infections because he has asthma and a tendency to develop bronchitis.
Did my son have swine flu? Do my husband and I now have it? Contra Costa Health Services estimates that there are hundreds of cases in the county.
In a press release about the Contra Costa man’s death, Health Services Director Wendell Brunner said: “His death reminds us that even though most of the H1N1 cases in Contra Costa and the state have been mild or moderate, all flu viruses can be deadly and everyone should remain vigilant in helping to prevent the spread of H1N1 and seasonal flu.”
The release added that doctors are only going to test those people who wind up in the hospital or dead. So unless my husband or I wind up in either category, we’ll never know.