Dr. Charles Lapp wrote in his August 2009 newsletter an article on what worried ME/CFS & Fibromyalgia patients should do about the Swine Flu. It’s only natural that chronically ill patients would be extremely worried about a pandemic such as the H1N1 Swine Flu and how it may affect our health. Dr. Lapp says about Swine Flu:
At the time of this writing, the swine flu has become widespread in the southern United States, especially the Southeast. However, the illness prevalence, the number of doctor visits, and the morbidity is still no worse than the usual seasonal influenza. It is expected that the number of cases will increase as school resumes because H1N1 is rapidly spread by coughing and sneezing, hand-to-hand, or hand-to-body contact.
Dr. Lapp offers the following recommendations when it comes to vaccinations for the Swine Flu, as he has had several patients ask him if vaccinations should be given to us.
Our usual recommendations on influenza vaccinations are that they have been known to trigger flares of CFS/ME/FM; that many PWCs to do not respond to vaccination anyway; and that viral infections are uncommon in most PWCs due to upregulation of the immune system.
Therefore, we would recommend seasonal flu vaccination only if you have tolerated these well in the past and if you are at high risk.
He says a new vaccine needs to be produced because the flu is so new and that probably won’t be available until the end of October. He says that H1N1 usually infects those under the age of 24 and the vaccination will more than likely be made available to high risk groups first. This includes those under the age of 24, pregnant women, anyone who lives with or cares for children under 6 months old, healthcare workers, and anyone over the age of 24 who have compromised immune systems that make them a higher risk for H1N1.
Dr. Lapp says that ME/CFS & Fibromyalgia patients are not considered to have weakened immune systems compromised to the point of high risk unless there is a history of frequent viral infections and/or pneumonia. The vaccine may not be available to the majority of the population until late in the season after the peak of the Swine Flu. He recommends that patients:
- Avoid crowds and sick people (especially coughers and sneezers!).
- Wash your hands frequently or use alcohol-based hand cleansers.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with your bare hands.
The symptoms of Swine Flu are fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, headaches, body aches, fatigue, chills, and possible vomiting and diarrhea. If you think you have Swine Flu, you should:
- Call your doctor’s office.
- Avoid contact with anyone for at least 24 hours after the fever breaks.
- Wear a surgical mask in case you come in contact with others.
- Recognize these warnings signs and seek medical assistance immediately for difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, increased confusion, severe or persistent vomiting, and flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.
Dr. Lapp states there are two antiviral medications that can be taken to lessen the severity of the Swine Flu and to reduce the symptoms. These have to be started within 48 hours of the illness onset, however. They are not to be used to try to prevent the flu. For adults, the medications and doses are:
- Tamiflu / oseltamivir (75 mg tablets taken twice daily for 5 days) or
- Relenza / zanamivir (two inhalations twice daily).