10 September 2009

A parent's plea and confusion

I want to highlight a comment that was left on Labor Day by a woman named Valorie in Arkansas (thank you for reading, Valorie). She said:
I am just now learning about all of this and am very concerned about my 12 year old daughter. We were only 10 days into the school year, and she came down with the flu about a week ago. The rate at which it spread within her school as well as to me (her mother) and 2younger siblings was astonishing! We were all running high fevers within 24 hours of the onset of her first noticeable symptoms. Her junior high (which has approximately 500 students) had between 130 and 140 students absent last week due to flu like symptoms. However, the school is saying this is not H1N1 because it is too early in the season to be the actual flu. (This is absurd in my opinion.) Now, on our oldest daughter's 5th day into the illness she has developed an MRSA infection from a small boil on her tummy. Within a day, it has swollen from a golf ball size to larger than a baseball in size. She now has 2 places of infection and is running a fever of about 101.7 on her 6th, almost 7th day of illness. Her doctor has placed her on a high powered antibiotic, but she is feeling so ill that I am scared to death for her, especially reading about the complications from having both the flu and MRSA. Do you think the oral antibiotics should take care of it, or do you think we need to have her admitted for IV antibiotics. I've just been surprised at how long this illness has lasted and how ill she still seems to be. No one seems to want to talk about the flu, much less any other possible complications in order to keep everyone else from panicking. I just want to get my daughter well and keep her safe. Any advice? Thanks so much for your time.
I wanted to highlight Valorie's comment for a couple of reasons.

First, because it captures the way in which H1N1 has been ripping through schools in most places where school has returned to session. Schools in the Southeast tend to go back before the Northeast or the West; in Atlanta, where I used to live and where schools reopen long before Labor Day, H1N1 has gone through schools like a hot knife. Second, it shows how little the education about flu being pushed out by the CDC (and by others including my colleagues at CIDRAP) has penetrated: There has been H1N1 flu all over the place this summer, and it's precisely because it is "too early in the season" that we know it is H1N1 and not the seasonal flu.

But what is most concerning and touching is Valorie's confusion over which drugs her daughter should be taking, and whether her daughter's physician is giving enough attention to her illness. Despite years of clinical experience, figuring out which drugs to give for MRSA is not easy. That's first because many of them are old and now generic-only drugs for which clinical trials (in the context of this disease) were never done; and second because community MRSA's resistance profile keeps changing as it picks up additional resistance factors.

The CDC dealt with this problem of what drugs to give in a meeting held in 2004 and a report issued in 2006. The report, going drug by drug, is here (caution, it's 24 pages) and a flow chart summarizing the findings is here. Either is useful to have and to take to doctors if you feel uncomfortable about what is being prescribed or about a patient's lack of progress.

Valorie, I hope your daughter does better. Keep us posted.

1 comment:

techperson said...

Maryn -
Today's swine flu stories from ICAAC leave a question begging to be answered: If IV peramivir is effective in the ICU and has been shown to be safe in Phase I and II trials in the US, and Phase I, II and III trials in Japan, why has the FDA dragged its heels issuing an Emergency Use Authorization, and why have children suffocated to death in the ICU as a result? I think what Hurricane Katrina was to FEMA, this delayed EUA is to the FDA. It's a huge story; please break it.