Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Flu With Blisters
I really hesitate to write about this, because it's so depressing. I got what seems to be a terrible case of flu except that it began with blisters on my skin. I'm pretty sure I got it from driving behind a uncovered truck carrying topsoil. The soil was blowing all over. A few days later I developed tiny blisters on my skin, and then I got the worst respiratory illness I have ever had in my life.
Chief No Nag hasn't gotten ill. I've been doing the things I've described - washing the door knobs, handles, etc.
It's not regular flu. Most of the people at work are still sick. I no longer believe that this can be anything but H5N1. Last week my bulldog came running into the porch in terror. I went out to see what was wrong, and this big buzzard was wheeling and lurching around the house. It wasn't far off the ground. It almost flew into me, and I'm pretty certain it was almost blind. What was probably its mate was flying above it and calling it. Eventually it got it into the woods on the other end of the farm. Now even the buzzards are dying.
There are some birds here. There are some geese left. They ought to be nesting, but so far I haven't seen any indications of that. The pattern is the reverse of WNV, which hit the smaller species much more severely. This is wiping out the larger birds first, and especially the water birds.
The only thing I can suggest is to watch your local environment closely. This area has a huge concentration of waterbirds and migratory waterbirds. I would guess that most areas in the US wouldn't have this type of exposure yet. But be careful. Be very careful about outside exposures. I had not considered the possibility of blowing soil like that.
I thought I was going to die for about a day and a half, and if I were a child, I don't believe I would have survived. Ventilation would not have helped. Parents need to take this very seriously. A big lungful of infected dust or a snort of infected water could kill your kid. It is not an accident that the cases are so concentrated among children and so fatal to them.
I will not be well for quite some time. My guess is that the blisters would be contagious from skin to skin. I don't think this virus is spreading via the air. I think it is spreading via contact with soil, secretions, water and dust. It could spread human to human, and I would bet that some cases are getting infected and passing it without ever knowing it through the skin. My guess is that you could get a skin infection that would localize itself, but that you would be a spreader. I've contacted a couple of doctors; they are going to start watching and trying to get samples tested. The rules about handwashing hold, but they won't work for young children. Also, outside pets and young children are a huge risk.
I've given up on our local health authorities totally. All I can tell you is that in this area, the rural people are seeing a very unlikely series of illnesses. The urban areas don't seem to have the same problem.
I have been wondering about this. And worrying, not just about you but about me, since I live just south of you. Is anyone interested in testing the birds? During WNV season, we're supposed to report any dead birds so that they can be tested. Have you tried the CDC? Please email me if I can do anything for you, either in person or over the net.
On the one hand, I can see why they stopped testing for WNV. They know WNV is in this area, and we are just going to have to live with whatever this is in the same way as WNV. And there has got to be a limit to how many birds they can test at all.
I think they should be subtyping flu in people. Because I called around, and I heard of vastly reduced bird populations way up north. So I tried to contact doctors in the NE, who presumably will have different perspectives and local setups.
What's REALLY bothering me is that one place where no birds was reported is less than 75 miles from NYC, and it is still freezing over most nights up there.
Maybe this didn't come in from the west. Maybe it came across the Atlantic.
I'm worried about my son. I'm just worried about my son.
I sure am worried about kids in this area. Some families have decided to try to keep kids away from fields when they are being worked. The girl who was bleeding from the mouth is doing much better. Maybe when we get done plowing and it gets hot the area will be healthier!
There are a bunch of things that are carried in the soil too (fungal and bacterial), that can cause rash and respiratory distress--and they don't just "go away."
Please don't let it go, thinking it'll just clear up on its own. A few years ago, I did, and ended up driving myself to the ER (while having to lie down in the front seat during red lights on the way).
Demand that they find out what it is!!
And of course, I'm praying for your recovery.
While we have some kids who have been hospitalized in this area, they all survived. I'm thinking that the worst danger to the children is a sudden massive exposure.
You know how sometimes a field will just be covered in geese or ducks gleaning? I think that's where the big danger lies - that a bunch of infected birds will contaminate soil, and then that contaminated soil will get in the air and that kids will be exposed to it. All I can say is that I wouldn't let a kid of mine be outside near a field which is being worked. I'm not the only one to decide that around here. Also ag ditches and ag runoff areas might be dangerous.
This year, I wouldn't let a kid play around or swim in any natural body of water. We're not allowing anyone to fish and so forth.
I might go north in a week or two and get some decent diagnostic testing done. This is where GA's policies about medical insurance, as well-meant as they are, have really hurt this area. We are stripped of doctors and it is our own dumb fault. They cannot stay in business.
If I go north I can get world-class testing done for a few thou.
Then I had to go north to take care of some old folks in July. I got typhus up there, (which was just diagnosed in October, that seems to have been what was making them all sick). I found some odd references to what sounds like a variant form of typhus in Brazil, and now I am wondering if it isn't being carried by bird mites.
It's very odd to find typhus in the NE like that. The area is next to water and has a lot of waterbirds, and the animals were dying. I think this ALL might be typhus. There was a massive die-off around here this summer. Mice, squirrels, foxes, raptors.... This cannot be coincidence. Both areas are on the Atlantic flyway. The deer survived in both places.