An American's H1N1 Swine Flu Experience in London
One Patient's Story
By Laura Lee Bloor
Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler,
When Orange County, Calif., native Jennifer Johnson* started feeling feverish with a sore throat, headache, and body aches, one of her restaurant coworkers teased that she probably had swine flu.
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Unfortunately, the joke turned out to be real.
It was a Saturday night, and 24-year-old Johnson was working as a server at a London restaurant. Her throat had been sore and scratchy all day, but she wasn't too concerned. Around 10 p.m., she felt a sudden strong fever develop in addition to some mild dizziness, loss of appetite, and painful body aches.
After being released from work, she stopped by the corner market on her way home to pick up a thermometer to take her temperature. The store was sold out of them.
The H1N1 swine flu has hit the United Kingdom hard (more than 100,000 cases and 30 reported deaths, according to the U.K.'s National Health Service [NHS], as of press time on July 30, 2009). In a panicked response, people have taken to stockpiling thermometers, ibuprofen (Advil, Children's Advil/Motrin, Medipren, Motrin, Nuprin, PediaCare Fever), and other over-the-counter cold and flu medicines, Johnson explains.
After leaving the store, she came home and went to bed but had trouble sleeping because of anxiety.
"You can't help but get nervous," Johnson said. "That first night I was afraid to go to sleep because I was so stressed that I might have swine flu."
She stayed in bed Sunday, continued to manage her fever with ibuprofen, and drank lots of fluids. As soon as the ibuprofen would wear off, her fever would spike again.
"I don't catch the flu very often, but the only thing that caught me off guard
(with the swine flu) was the fever, which lasted three days, whereas before, my fevers had always gone away within a day," Johnson said.
By Monday, her symptoms hadn't improved and her fever wasn't going away, so she called her local general practitioner. She hadn't ever been sick enough for a doctor's visit while in London, so she had to fill out new-patient paperwork.
The doctor's office didn't want her in the office if she had flu-like symptoms that could be H1N1 swine flu, so Johnson's flatmate (roommate, for those of us in the United States) walked to the doctor's office and brought it back for her. Her flatmate then returned the paperwork to the doctor's office. Once Johnson was entered into the system, she was put on a waiting list to be called by the doctor.
About two hours later, a general practitioner called Johnson and reviewed her symptoms and medical history. The doctor declared that she more than likely did have H1N1 swine flu.
Because Johnson also has asthma, it makes her a "high risk" candidate for H1N1 swine flu and for developing further complications such as pneumonia. Her vulnerability led the general practitioner to prescribe her the antiviral medication
oseltamivir (Tamiflu). Had Johnson not had the underlying condition, she probably would not have been given the Tamiflu treatment, she said, as the doctors are concerned about having a sufficient supply of the drug should mass administration be needed.