Pediatrician Sees Spike In Swine Flu Cases
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
In pediatricians' offices around the country, parents are asking about the swine flu vaccine. Federal health officials announced yesterday that children younger than 10 need two separate shots of the vaccine for it to be effective. Kids 10 and older are apparently fine with just one shot.
To find out what sorts of conversations are going on in doctors' offices, we're joined now by Dr. Michael Kurtz. He's a pediatrician in Centennial, Colorado, that's south of Denver.
And how many kids, doctor, have come into your office with the swine flu recently?
Dr. MICHAEL KURTZ (Pediatrician): In the last 10 days in our three offices, we have tested at least 30 to 50 patients a day with a positive swine flu test.
BRAND: And usually, you see zero in September?
Dr. KURTZ: I would say very rarely do we see any in September. It will often start to increase in October and November. We've had some years that it's even been after the Christmas holiday.
BRAND: You say you test for the swine flu, and I'm wondering how you do that.
Dr. KURTZ: We are actually testing for influenza A and influenza B. Our state health department has told us that over 98 percent of the influenza A in our community is H1N1. So we are not sending positive flu tests to a state lab to specifically document H1N1.
BRAND: And what kinds of questions are you getting from your patients' parents?
Dr. KURTZ: Because we have a fairly large practice of 35,000 patients, there's not a single parent who comes to the office for anything that isn't asking about the disease and who, when and where will they get their vaccine.
BRAND: And once a child has had the swine flu, they don't need to get the vaccine, right?
Dr. KURTZ: That is correct.
BRAND: Because they're now immune to it? And what do you tell parents when they say, you know, I'm not really sure I should give my child the vaccine. I'm a little suspicious of vaccines. I'm a little suspicious of this one because it seems that it was approved so quickly. And I also have to give my kid a regular flu vaccine.
Dr. KURTZ: What we're suggesting to families is that these are killed vaccines except for the flu mist, which actually is some live vaccine that - it has the same risk factors albeit not as well tested. But our bigger concern is that we really want to protect as many of the youngsters as we can to try to avoid having large numbers of patients with illness, but rather large numbers of patients who are protected.
BRAND: So you're saying go ahead and get the vaccine?
Dr. KURTZ: The only youngsters that we are discouraging are those who have had adverse reactions to flu vaccine in the past or those who have had egg sensitivity. So we're using the same guidelines as we would for any seasonal flu vaccine.
BRAND: When will you receive the swine flu vaccine?
Dr. KURTZ: We do not know.
BRAND: You don't know?
Dr. KURTZ: No, ma'am.
BRAND: Have you been calling federal health officials?
Dr. KURTZ: We have been calling state and federal. We have accessed all of the Internet access points that we can, at least three times a day, to try to get some understanding of who will be providing the vaccine, will it be mass inoculation programs at schools and rec centers, or will in fact private physicians be expected to administer it. But, at this point, we do not know that information.
BRAND: So how are your patients' parents dealing with that uncertainty? Are they getting worried?
Dr. KURTZ: Yes, and angry. And, unfortunately, some of that anger is directed at us. And we try to tell them that the information stream is no better for us than for the general public at this point in time.
BRAND: Schools and the CDC keep reminding us to wash hands, cough into your elbow, stay home if you're sick. Is that what you advise your patients?
Dr. KURTZ: We do, indeed. And we also are trying to be very, very thoughtful. The patient should not return until they've been fever-free for a minimum of 24 hours with no fever medications, and do not exhibit respiratory symptoms that would be in any way invasive to the setting they're in.
BRAND: Dr. Michael Kurtz speaking from his office in Centennial, Colorado. Thank you very much.
Dr. KURTZ: Thank you.
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