Monday, November 09, 2009

H-whu? N-wha?

Today is the day that we DON'T have a flu clinic at the community centre where I work. Coincidentally, I won't be at work today, having booked the day off to volunteer at the by-election. At work, we find that our usual annual seasonal flu clinic, geared to seniors and qualified others, has been canceled while the public health people scramble to provide H1N1 vaccine to the public. Regular flu shots will be provided at a later date. Having promoted the clinic for some weeks, we are ready for people to arrive and be disappointed. I'm sorry that I won't be there to help.

As for H1N1, this is, apparently, the week of low supply of vaccine. The special doses for pregnant women will be available, but their production has postponed production of the regular formula for everyone else. To complicate matters, everyone else is still a short list of especially vulnerable people. Ordinary people will get their vaccine later, IF they want it.

Andy, Fiona and I went out to a play on Saturday. A woman in the row behind us was coughing up a storm. To her credit, she seemed to be catching every cough in her arm or elbow, but we were uncomfortable. Should we try for other seats, we wondered? The theatre was full, and seats were reserved, and we didn't want to seem paranoid. Still, we wished that she had not come out, coughing like that. We settled for drinking bottled water to keep mucous membranes hydrated, and followed the "don't touch anything and wash your hands on the break and after the show" approach.

Our sandwich-making group at church meets later this week. While the church is being used as a temporary homeless shelter, we are relocating our sandwich night to a member's home. At church on Sunday, some of the ladies spoke to me with their concern that our host has been ill. Will it be safe for us to go to her house? I phoned her and found out that she has been well already for a couple of days, so we should be clear for our evening at her house, unless other family members are ill. To be doubly sure of the decision, I phoned the Healthlink info line (811 in the province of BC). At 8pm, the lines were so busy that the system wouldn't even queue me. At 10pm it took about 10 minutes to get through. The nurse on the line told me that people are thought to be infectious from 1 day before symptoms appear and remain infections for 7 days. Incubation period is thought to be 2-7 days from time of exposure. That's a big window, especially if others have been exposed and are incubating.

Of course, once we're all immunized, we won't have to worry. The vaccine is thought to take 1-2 weeks to take effect, so by Christmas, the liklihood of anyone getting H1N1 will be diminished, if the vaccination program goes as planned.

I am planning to be immunized for both seasonal and H1N1 flus. Our employee clinic has not been postponed (it's next week), although I think it may be rescheduled because most of us still don't meet the criteria for priority H1N1 immunization. In the meantime, I'm trying to be responsible and reasonably careful, but not paranoid.

I think this whole experience is demonstrating a lot about human nature and social behaviour, and making us think about our personal values and our trust in authority and in each other. It's an interesting time.

question: will you/have you been vaccinated?

mompoet - washing hands and giving hugs

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