In the first three weeks of school, my son was home sick for four days. The second week of school he had strep throat. The following week he came home with a high fever, chills, and was lethargic and vomiting. Normally, I’d feed him Tylenol and baby him unless his symptoms got worse. But N1H1, the feared swine flu, is making its way through the Southeast. Virtually all flu cases at this time are considered to be the Swine flu by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). I had heard too many stories of otherwise healthy people dying because of the disease, so I rushed my son to the doctor. He tested negative for both flu and a reoccurrence of strep, and within 24 hours he was feeling fine. I heaved a sigh of relief, but was hungry to learn more about this feared outbreak and who was at risk.
A detailed report released by the CDC, and reported today by theNorth County Times, puts the condition into perspective, but hardly puts my mind at ease. According to the report, unlike the usual seasonal flu that kills half or more of children age 4 and younger, the swine flu is taking a higher toll on school-age kids. At least 40 – or about one in 13 U.S. swine flu deaths – are in children between the ages of 5 and 17. Some epidemiologists say that may be because school-age kids are more apt to be around other kids at camps and school than younger children. That may also explain why the Southeast is seeing more cases of swine flu than other regions, because our schools tend to start earlier.
Other differences between the ordinary flu and N1H1 detailed in the CDC report include secondary conditions. For example, two-thirds of the children who died from swine flu had an underlying neurodevelopmental condition such as epilepsy or cerebral palsy, compared to one-third with ordinary flu. And, other germs, such as a bacterial infection, on top of the swine flu proves more deadly to otherwise healthy children. Of the 10 children who were healthy before they got N1H1 but died from the virus, eight had a bacterial infection, such as bacterial pneumonia, along with the flu.
The CDC doesn’t track the usual seasonal flu so it is hard to say whether the swine flu is more prevalent than the ordinary flu. But there is some good news. The virus doesn’t appear to be mutating to become more deadly than it is now, as some scientists have feared.