The aches, the pains, a temperature above 100. You're so sick you cannot get out of bed even to eat. When even the most comfortable position on your bed is uncomfortable, you know there has to be something wrong. It couldn't be swine flu, could it? You did not kiss a pig or even eat ham this week so there is no way you could have it, right?
Wrong. Those were both misconceptions when the H1N1 virus first came about in late 2008 in Mexico. But if you can't get it from eating ham or being around pigs, where did it come from? According to "Where did Swine Flu Come From?" by Kathleen Masterson of www.npr.org, "The current strain of H1N1 originated in pigs, which are easily infected with flu viruses from other pigs, birds and humans. Pigs can become mixing pots for viruses to swap genes and mutate."
When the first outbreaks began to occur in the United States, "swine flu" was all over the news and words like "death" and "pandemic" came up. However, the H1N1 virus has been turned into a way bigger deal than I think it ever should have been.
On June 6, I had my first real symptom of the virus. My mom had been diagnosed with it the week before, so we did not take me in to get tested. At the time they were mainly testing those who were being hospitalized. The reason the swine flu was even around in June is because the virus thrives in warm climates, unlike the normal flu that occurs in fall and winter.
When I woke up that morning, I had a cough, a cough that felt like my trachea was going to rip itself out of my chest. At first I thought maybe I was just having bad allergies, then day two came along. That day I just had a very lightheaded feeling. My legs were weak, I felt cold, my head was pounding and I had a back and neck ache. My temperature was 104.5 degrees. I never have temperatures that high, so I knew I was sick.
My mom told me to stay home from church that day and remain hydrated. So I took some Theraflu, got a bottle of water and went upstairs to bed. The flu had fatigued me so much that I remember sitting up to get a book at the end of my queen-size bed and then waking up three hours later to find I was at the wrong end of my bed with my arm outstretched for the book. This was sad; never before had I been so sick that I did not have the strength to reach a book.
So here I was two days after school got out for the summer, sick in bed with the swine flu. Most of my friends were going on vacations and having fun while I was quarantined to my bedroom. The third day I woke up and felt so much better. But the annoying thing was even though I was feeling better in the morning, by nightfall I was exhausted and miserable again.
I started to get really worried because I was supposed to attend a leadership conference in Provo soon and my mom had been sick for seven days. I had to be clear from fever without aid of medication for 24 hours in order to be considered OK to go. On Tuesday, I did not have a fever but still felt really tired, but on Wednesday morning I was free of fever and fatigue and got to go.
Having the swine flu was miserable; I would not wish it on anyone. But I think the hype about it is a little too much. As of Nov. 20, there have been a confirmed 6,567 deaths from the H1N1 virus. Those numbers are devastatingly high and death is always a serious thing, but each year more than 36,000 people die from the seasonal flu. Yes, H1N1 is something to worry about, and I am not saying you should not wash your hands or use sanitizer, but I think we all need to calm down a little bit.
Many have survived swine flu. If you can receive a vaccination that is great and you will be that much more protected, but every time someone coughs it is not an indicator that they have the H1N1 virus. It is safe to eat pork and to touch pigs. If you are sick, then avoid travel, but if not, lighten up a little and enjoy our holiday season.
Kaitlin Lewis is a Syracuse High School senior. E-mail her at email@example.com.