It's been sort of weird the last few weeks. There has been so much noise in the media about the H1N1 influenza outbreak. I've been reading about overwhelmed ERs, triage in the parking garages, twenty-year olds on ventilators. It's scary stuff. One ER friend tells me his department volume is up 40% due to H1N1. We've dusted off the disaster plans and have been ready to go for a while now.
But instead: nothing. We sat in our near-empty department and stared at one another wondering when the tidal wave was going to hit. It's been a little like working New Years Eve, or during the Super Bowl. You know you're going to get crushed but you don't know exactly when or how bad it's going to be. Frankly, I was starting to feel a little left out, as everybody else got into the game and we were left on the sidelines.
No more. The other shoe has now hit the floor. We are off the tenterhooks. The suspense has ended and the pandemic has officially hit our corner of the Northwest. Surprisingly, it hit abruptly. One day I saw zero influenza-like illnesses. The next day they represented 50% of my cases. Strangely, I feel relief. It's game time.
On another note, I came into my shift today and the nursing station was consumed by a vigorous debate over whether we should "take" the H1N1 vaccine. There's no obligation to do so at our hospital, but the infection control people are being quite diligent in trying to get through to everybody. And this just freaking blows my mind. We are health care providers. We are supposed to be smarter than this. When you have thought leaders in the field of health care writing op-eds in the New York Times practically begging caregivers to get the vaccine, and still there is widespread uncertainly whether it would be a good idea or not, then we've lost. It's official, folks: Jenny McCarthy and Oprah have won. Vaccines are the agents of the devil; science and evidence-based medicine have been once and for all repudiated. When the debaters asked me whether I thought we should get vaccinated, I perhaps a bit too caustically opined that it was either embrace the vaccines or give up the ghost and go back to bloodletting and purging evil humours.
Maybe we'd be better off with homeopathic vaccines. They're injections of water, but they were once near someone who had had the flu.
Seriously folks, get the fricking vaccine. It's safe -- much safer than the influenza, and far far less miserable. I had the misfortune to get H1N1 in May, and it was the sickest I have ever been in my adult life. I was prostrate for five days, and there are long spans of time that I just don't remember. Especially if you or a loved one are high-risk: very young, very old, or pregnant. Get the damn shot.
Frankly, though, I have no sympathy for any health care provider who chooses not to get immunized. I hope they do get influenza. They will deserve it. Hopefully they won't get too many of their co-workers and patients sick along with them.