I received my H1N1 shot today. My arm hurts a little.
For the past week I’ve witnessed an explosion in the number of patients calling and visiting the office with flu symptoms. The pandemic is now apparent. Yesterday alone I saw at least 12 people with serious flu symptoms in the office, and personally triaged another 20 or so over the phone (in addition to seeing “regular” visits). I’ve been at work until 8 or 9 PM every night this week, and the office is humming with a concerted effort that starts at the front desk and extends back through the examining room.
I’ve sent only four people to the emergency room whom I felt looked really sick; the rest have managed quite well at home with appropriate medicine and rest. It is frightening to consider the capricious will of the virus to make some people extremely ill, and to take the life of an unfortunate set. I tie a surgical mask around my face before entering rooms of patients with flu-like symptoms. It probably breeds more fear than it helps, but my office cannot afford to have a doctor out with flu.
The strain on our health care system is evident, and can be seen in the microcosm that is our family practice. Sometimes I’m running late as I try to see as many people that need to be seen as I can. The front desk follows a telephone triage questionnaire to determine who needs to be seen, who can stay home, and who needs to go to the emergency room. We get hundreds of calls a day, ranging from routine refill requests to urgent concerns. It is sometimes difficult to make an outgoing call as most of the office lines are actively blinking.
Most people understand this strain, but others yell and literally berate the fatiguing staff. We all need to think of this issue as a community problem and contribute our patience and diligence; whether in the waiting rooms of primary care doctors or in the parking lot tents of makeshift expanded emergency rooms, no one is taking leisure time.
There have been a few deaths in my community, but the majority of people have been recovering. In addition to varying degrees of fever, muscle aches, headaches, sore throat, cough, nausea, diarrhea, and malaise, I wonder if a patient statement of Doc I’m sorry, but I just feel like shit should be added to the CDC diagnostic criteria.
Over 95% of influenza circulating right now is of the H1N1 strain. Keep educating yourself. Make your own decisions in consultation with your doctor. But I am appreciative of the Herculean effort that has brought an H1N1 vaccine into my muscle today, and I am hopeful it will offer protection to those who receive it, as it did in the clinical trials this summer.
You might also find the H1N1 shot by calling your doctor, county health department, Walgreens and other pharmacies, local hospital, school, or other organization. There is an order of priority of course. Don’t fail to take standard precautions to reduce transmission risk. Good luck. I’ll let you know how my personal vaccine experience goes.