Kiwi Polemicist

July 4, 2009

• My experience of swine flu precautions

Filed under: Health — Tags: , , , , , — Kiwi Polemicist @ 2:06 pm

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In my earlier post I reported that I had flu; this is supposed to be a seven day bug but it’s gone on rather longer than that. At one stage I developed complications and it was a weekend so I went to an after hours clinic (a king’s ransom would have been only marginally more expensive).

The clinic had a sign on the door saying that if you had flu symptoms and had either been overseas in the past week or had been in contact with swine flu then please knock on the window and do not enter. I had no reason to suspect that I had swine flu, but I could not exclude that and common (seasonal) flu is highly contagious so out of consideration for others I knocked on the window. A nurse came outside and I told her that I hadn’t been overseas but I did have influenza. She thanked me for knocking on the window and asked me to wait outside until a room was free.

After a minute or two I was escorted through the waiting room to a consultation room and the door was shut. At one point the unprotected nurse came in and looked for something in a cupboard before leaving. After another interval a mask and a registration form were passed through the door, then a doctor appeared wearing a mask and gloves.

I can see two significant failings in the clinic’s handling of the situation (remember that flu is spread by droplets floating in the air, and these are mainly generated by coughing and sneezing):

  1. I should have been asked to put on a mask before I entered the building and walked through the waiting room
  2. the nurse entered the consultation room and came well within a metre of me without protection. This exposed her to flu and therefore potentially exposed her other patients to flu

Hopefully other clinics are taking better precautions, although I suspect that many are similarly lax.

What is your experience of swine flu precautions?




  1. Actually, KP, flu is spread mostly by contaminated touch, rather than droplets. You might have spread your flu if you coughed or sneezed directly on the nurse, but not otherwise. Having said that, I agree that the A&M were a little lax in not giving you a mask up front. On the other hand, getting you to fill in the registration form would have spread your flu germs very nicely to the receptionist!

    Comment by macdoctor01 — July 4, 2009 @ 3:18 pm

    • MacDoctor: I stand corrected, and I had wondered about the registration form, the clipboard, and the pen. I made an effort to avoid coughing and sneezing when transiting the waiting room and when the nurse was close, but not everyone would or could do this. Also, might the nurse have inhaled a droplet that I ejected just before she entered the room?

      Are these perspex screens on the front counters actually useful or just OSH decorations? They’d protect against some sneezes and coughs, but not contaminated touch.

      Comment by Kiwi Polemicist — July 4, 2009 @ 6:24 pm

  2. a king’s ransom would have been only marginally more expensive

    What did they charge you, how often do you go to the GP per year, and what do you spend on maintaining your vehicle per year?

    People will complain about spending $50 at a GP yet spend $200-500 per year on vehicle maintenance over and above registration and warrants.

    I realise you are only being mildly amusing, but we talk like this because we don’t think it should be part of a yearly budget.

    Comment by bethyada — July 5, 2009 @ 1:56 pm

    • Yes, the MacDoctor would quite like to earn a King’s ransom for seeing patients… 😉

      Comment by MacDoctor — July 5, 2009 @ 2:13 pm

    • Bethyada: it was a slightly humorous comment based on a subjective assessment of the cost relative to my weekly income and the quality of service received (beyond that described in the article).

      Comment by Kiwi Polemicist — July 5, 2009 @ 5:51 pm

  3. […] My experience of swine flu precautions Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)My experience of swine flu precautionsUnalaska Prepared for Swine FluThe Pandemic That Isn’tNew Flu Strain Is A Genetic Mix Leave a Comment […]

    Pingback by Junk Journalism: Clinics struggle to cope with swine flu rush « Kiwi Polemicist — July 8, 2009 @ 1:26 pm

  4. I’m pretty sure I have it, but they are no longer testing every flu case that comes through the door! Turns out most cases they tested here in California were coming out positive, plus it takes them over a week to get the results and it’s expensive. So I think they’ve just accepted the pandemic, and as with me, they’re giving us all Tamiflu if it looks like we have the flu and then only in the first 48 hours following the onset of symptoms… (i.e. don’t tough it out and wait before you’re seen or you might miss out on the Tamiflu)

    Note the following article:

    Regarding precautions, I had to go to the emergency room in May and at that time they were immediately giving people with flu symptoms masks and segregating them… this time, they treated me like any other ER patient – I was frankly shocked! I guess the only difference is that they’ve figured out it isn’t as deadly as they thought it would be. Rather strange! I decided on my own, to use my own pen and to not sit with the others…

    Comment by Amy in California — July 16, 2009 @ 10:07 am

    • Amy: it may be swine flu is the dominant strain of flu and so widespread that the emergency room thought the precautions were futile.

      Comment by Kiwi Polemicist — July 17, 2009 @ 12:14 pm

      • I do think it must be the dominant strain, but I still feel that in an ER full of “high risk” people, they should take some precautions. Yeah, were all going to get it eventually and some will die – so I wonder if it is better for a high risk person to get it now or later? Now, the strain might still respond to Tamiflu and they won’t be hit as badly, later, and they might benefit from a flu shot for H1N1 that will have been developed and deployed or from some other meds that may have developed by then as well.

        Comment by Amy in California — July 17, 2009 @ 1:33 pm

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