Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Flu Tall Tale

Your doctor is like a cab driver on a very rainy night with potholes all over the road. You're in good shape, he's a good driver who wants to get you where you need to be. But there are all sorts of hindrances and possible disasters in the way.

Right this minute, you aren't sick. You haven't shown symptoms of the new H1N1 influenza virus. Reports are that this bug can make someone feel really sick. Some theories hold that we are surrounded and inhabited by various viruses and bacteria all the time, but that our immune system, bolstered by our general health, keeps them harmlessly at bay.

There has been plenty of discussion in this blog about the dangers and lack of efficacy of any vaccine, including a flu shot. So there's one pothole we're going to avoid and tell our favorite physician sorry, no shot--no thanks again this year.

He shakes his head, like the cab driver who says, "You really want to go through that flooded street instead of over the bridge? In my cab?" And you say, "Trust me--that's a reflection. There's no flood--just drive." And he's still shaking his head telling you about endangering your family and children etc...

Now you handle a bunch of family business, professional business, and stress. You're losing sleep, and your body gives up on the immunity support because it's too busy dealing with your over-wracked brain.

You left the door open. So one of those virulent persistent mean little microscopic DNA/chromosomal poor-showing-for-a-cell wannabe flu viruses gets a foothold on your unsuspecting, unaware, unprotected cell tissue. As your body responds with all the antibody immunity it can muster, you start to feel really bad.

Billions of those little viruses--not one of which can live alone but has to parasitically feed off of one your cells--are causing your body to produce histamine, antibodies, fever, and more. Each of these reactions makes you feel awful. That's how nature cures you. No one said this would be easy, but it works and lasts forever.

The doctor used to tell you to stay home and rest. The cab driver used to drive more carefully and get you to the door...

NOW -- The cab driver says, "I've got wings and a sea-plane underpinning built into this cab, so we can FLY over the flood and avoid the bridge altogether--even get you to your destination that much sooner!"

What that means is that the doctor has told you about Tamiflu. Now that you have the flu (whether or not your kindly doctor has swabbed your throat for a culture to test for sure that it is one of any number of hundreds of influenza viruses, is another story), your doctor says that you can take a little pill the drug companies came up with, in case the vaccine doesn't work, which it doesn't, called "Tamiflu," which they tell you will lessen the painful symptoms of your body's immune system defense, and maybe even shorten the number of days you feel bad.

It's like a Disney movie where the good fairy waves her wand and the magic dust comes out and ... the flu goes away.

And if you're over 12 and you still believe in fairies, you should go get a flu shot and stock up on Tamiflu.

There are a couple of problems with the cab driver's wings and sea-plane landing gear--you're likely going to crash into the Hudson River without a floatation device and either be sick or dead: Tamiflu doesn't work.

That's not my big left-wing-reactionary-"I hate big pharma"-scream. It's a quote from the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):

The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the prescription drug Tamiflu isn't working against the virus strain that is causing this year's [2008] influenza in the United States.

Now, to really confuse you, the cab driver tells you to avoid the wings and sea-plane add-on after all, because he got a call from one of his fellow cab drivers with the same contraption, and that other cab is now sinking into the briny depths of the Hudson River--the wings were too small and the sea-plane buttress was made for a bicycle, not a car! But you don't know what the cab driver is talking about anyway because he doesn't speak English:

Confusing directions on liquid suspensions of the antiviral drug Tamiflu may inadvertently cause parents to give either too little of the drug, impeding the child's recovery, or a toxic overdose, physicians warned in a letter published Wednesday in the online version of the New England Journal of Medicine...

...Jacobson and her husband, an internist, had to do a Google search, then solve an equation to determine the correct dose: 5 ml. (volume of a teaspoon) x .75 x 12 mg./ml. of Tamiflu = 45 mg. It took them both working together for 30 minutes to solve the equation, and they suspect that many parents would have greater difficulty doing so.

I swear I'm not making this up. Except for the cab driver.

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