You may recall from my last post that last weekend I came down with a swine flu-like illness. When this past Monday morning rolled around, I wasn’t 100% symptom free, but I was fever free and felt better, so I returned to work. Before I sat down at my desk, I stopped by the office of my medical director to let him know that I was there. I told him about my symptoms over the weekend, my current symptoms and about how I was feeling well enough to see patients. After our talk I went to my office, caught up on a little paperwork and then saw my first patient. When I checked my schedule to see if my next patient had checked it, I was surprised at what I saw – my entire day’s schedule had been blocked out. Again, I went to talk to my medical director, this time to find out what happened to my patients. He informed me that due to my swine flu-like illness, my patients were being rescheduled and I was being sent home. I told him that I didn’t feel that sick so it was not necessary to send me home, especially since one of the other doctors was already out of the office because of illness. But he told me that he was going to follow the CDC guidelines on swine flu-like illnesses and despite my request to stay, I had to go home.
Initially when H1N1 first hit in the spring of 2009, the CDC had recommended that sick individuals stay home for 7 days after the illness onset or until 24 hours after the resolution of symptoms, whichever was longer. A few months later, the CDC eased up on those recommendations. The current CDC guidelines state:
People with influenza-like illness should remain at home until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever (100° F ), or signs of a fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
I had been fever free for 24 hours so according to the CDC, I could stay at work. And I would have been able to stay at work if it wasn’t for these CDC recommendations:
This is a change from the previous recommendation. The new recommendation applies to camps, schools, businesses, mass gatherings, and other community settings where the majority of people are not at increased risk for influenza complications. This guidance does not apply to health care settings where the exclusion period should be continued for 7 days from symptom onset or until the resolution of symptoms, whichever is longer.
The reason I was being sent home was in the fine print of the CDC guidelines – as opposed to the general population, health care workers still had to follow the original CDC guidelines of remaining at home for 7 days even if the symptoms had resolved. Thanks to the CDC, I had won an all expense paid vacation….to my house. I also had the pleasure of being tested for influenza with a nasopharyngeal swab – that means I had a q-tip shoved into my nose until it hit the back of my throat. Fun! I was given a mask to wear, told not to return until Friday and then the door hit me on the ass on my way out.
Later on that afternoon at home, I started feeling sick again. I took my temperature and my fever had returned. Good thing I was not at work and I was at home on my swine flu vacation. Thanks again CDC! Even though I felt kind of crappy, I still was able to get some things accomplished during my exile from work.
Here is a small sample of things I did during my swine flu vacation:
Sorted and organized old clothes that no longer fit my 3-year-old
Put some of these old clothes up for sale on craigslist
Sold my son’s old winter coat (thanks to craigslist)
Put an old Halloween costume up for sale on eBay
Took my 3-year-old to speech therapy (which I don’t normally get to do on Tuesdays)
Listened to my 7-year-old read me several books including Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy, Part 1: The Night of the Nasty Nostril Nuggets
Watched my son do his 1st grade homework
Here’s one thing that wasn’t on that list of things I did – rest. You would think that a sick person would slow down and get a little rest wouldn’t you. Well you’d be wrong. Let me share a secret with you, doctors suck as patients. It’s real easy for us to give the advice, not so easy for us to take it. Even without the rest, my symptoms did improve and I returned to work today.
Oh, remember that torture method nasopharyngeal swab I had? It was negative. I didn’t have swine flu after all.