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Monday, December 9, 2013
How serious, really, is the H1N1 (swine) flu?
My 83 year old mother is very frightened by what the media has been reporting about a Swine flu outbreak in Mexico and in a handful of U.S. states.
How serious is this, really? I mean - my mother is talking as though she expects all her friends and family to start dropping like flies any moment. She is actually worried because she wants to see the people she loves "one last time" but she doesn`t want to spread the flu by traveling or visiting people.
What are the real risks and dangers here? She says I am "naive" and "not realistic" because I am not in as much of a tizzy as she is about this.
By the way, she is in excellent health overall, a very active lady with no health problems other than minor arthritis in her hands. Should she be so worried about this that she is thinking about "saying goodbye" to her friends and family "just in case?"
The H1N1 (swine) flu has been very serious for some people and not very serious for others. Today's news media is saying that Mexico is reporting fewer cases of H1N1 (swine) flu this week than they reported last week. I think it is admirable that your mother wants to visit her friends and family. If I were giving recommendations to my mother, I would suggest that she not travel by common carrier (airplane, bus, or train) until this outbreak has been contained. If my mother was travelling by car, I would tell her to go whenever she likes. I don't expect everyone to become ill with H1N1 (swine) flu. From what we have seen so far, I am not expecting many deaths from the H1N1 (swine) flu. I would also tell my mother to wash her hands after touching door knobs and items that have been handled by the public and to stay away from people who are ill.
John Andrews, MD, MPH
Assistant Senior Vice President Medical Center
Director University Health Services
University of Cincinnati