Can you imagine being the receptionist in a doctor's office this week (unless of course, you ARE a receptionist in a doctor's office)? If our pediatrician's office is any indication -- you'd better hope your child doesn't actually get really sick, develop a rash, or blow up from a bee sting this week - because getting through the jammed phone lines is impossible.
It's much easier getting through to Dr. Google....although sorting through the nearly one million results for the search term "swine flu symptoms" could be the death of you.
What's making this swine flu outbreak even trickier for health care professionals is that flu season - of the non-swine variety - is still in its last throws. According to the CDC's website, "the symptoms of swine flu in people are expected to be similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea."
Which begs the question -- what's the difference between the two?! Thus, the jammed phone lines at every doctor's office across the country. Front-line health care professionals, many of whom admit they were just as surprised by this outbreak and the speed of its transmission as you and I, are overwhelmed. And questions are mounting while cases are doubling.
Although I am not panicked (despite the fact that our family traveled to San Diego for spring break and spent some quality time at public places like the Zoo and SeaWorld) - I am comforted by the fact that "it was a routine call last Thursday from a diligent high school nurse that put health detectives in New York City on the trail of a swine flu outbreak," as the NYTimes reports.
Unfortunately, public school nurses went the way of public school P.E. teachers here in California long ago.
So if my child has a runny nose, vomitting, and diarrhea -- should I be calling her doctor? "That's a very good question," Dr. Kathleen Neuzil, chair of the Influenza Working Group of the Centers for Disease Control Committee on Immunizations Practices, kept telling every caller on NPR's Talk of Nation yesterday.
A good question, with no answer. Just like what happens when you call your doctor's office. Because what's even more scary than an actual flu pandemic, is finding out whether or not we're prepared for one.