Piggy flu

Fans of Riesling may be relieved to hear that, as things panned out, it wasn't to blame for my hangover. Actually it wasn't even entirely a hangover; turns out it was the beginning of "flu like symptoms". Oh yes: I have had swine flu.

To be fair, I had "flu like symptoms". The NHS have stopped testing people and from the conversation I had with my GP, they're now recording anyone with appropriate sounding symptoms as swine flu (I rang up after I was feeling better purely for public health statistics; I'm a good little epidemiological swot). But what shook me to my core was not the temperature, or the achy joints, or the 48 hour headache, or the fact I spent most of Wednesday in bed, but the fact that the doctor had clearly been spending so much of his entire working days being screamed at by paranoid residents demanding Tamiflu, that he actually offered me Tamiflu. When I'd clearly said I'd recovered. And when Tamiflu is only effective when taken within 12-24 hours of the onset of symptoms. And now the new government helpline, to be staffed by non-medical professionals, will basically be giving out Tamiflu to anyone who can read a list of symptoms from a website or swine flu leaflet. They're chucking out antivirals like sweets, even though this style of distribution is likely to be highly ineffective; they'd be better off giving out sugar pills in Tamiflu boxes to anyone not in a high risk group, at least that way we'd be at less risk of helping along a drug resistant strain.

Was I lucky? I took a paracetamol and went to bed. On Thursday I was OK enough to work from home; if it weren't for the risk of contagion I'd have been well enough to go into the office. Now? I'm bright and chipper. The whole thing lasted (thinking back) less than 6 days and was mild enough to be mistaken for a hangover for fuck's sake. OK, I'm not very young, or very old, and I don't have any underlying health problems. I like to think that if I'd got very sick I would have got myself to hospital. But is it really worth giving Tamiflu to anyone who can use a telephone when similar relief can be obtained  your bed and a couple of painkillers costing less than a quid? It's pandering to people's worst fears. God I hate the government.

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One response to “Piggy flu

  1. Ant July 19, 2009 at 11:48 am

    A close relative of mine is a pharmacist, and is currently swamped dispensing tamiflu. Which is particularly irksome since she is familiar with the results of tamiflu clinical trials, which show that it is pretty woeful at actually doing anything to help flu.
    It does nothing to limit transmission of the virus, it merely limits symptoms, and trials showed that taking taking tamiflu would reduce the duration of symptoms by half a day for each 8 days you would normally suffer symptoms. Given the normal duration of flu symptoms that gives you half a day to a day of benefit tops. This dubious benefit is offset against the side effects – tamiflu makes you feel like shit, so even people who had trivial symptoms will feel like they were at deaths door because of the tamiflu! Woot!

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