Readers tell how they coped with swine flu

A North Devon couple with close links to the medical professional have spoken about their experiences after recovering from swine flu. The couple, whose names have been changed to protect their identity, were among the first people in North Devon to be

A North Devon couple with close links to the medical professional have spoken about their experiences after recovering from swine flu.

The couple, whose names have been changed to protect their identity, were among the first people in North Devon to be treated with anti-viral capsule Tamiflu.

In an exclusive interview with the Gazette, the couple revealed how they came into contact with the virus, how it has affected them, and the steps they have taken to overcome illness.

Speaking on Friday, David said: "I went downhill pretty quickly on Sunday night and have been in bed for most of the week.


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"I had normal flu symptoms - really bad sinusitis, a cough, headache and an incredibly high fever that was running just shy of 40 degrees Celsius.

"In fact, the fever was the worst part of it all and very difficult to control, even with a combination of paracetamol and ibuprofen at regular intervals. The severity of the fever was very different to that of normal influenza and at one point I did begin to feel quite delirious.

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"I am starting to feel a lot better today though and am definitely over the worst of it."

Partner Jill said that a cough at work on Monday had developed into the full-blown virus by Tuesday

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"It knocked me off my feet; I was feverish and had the usual fatigue associated with flu,"she said.

"Although these are routine flu-like symptoms, the temperature was very hard to control - even with maximum doses of ibuprofen.

"We couldn't move and didn't wash for around three days - if you had thrown a �50 note on the floor we couldn't have moved to pick it up."

She said that colleagues she had come into contact with at work on Monday had not developed any signs of the illness, although there was a typical incubation period of between two and five days.

"The Tamiflu shortens the duration of the illness by about a day and also decreases the risk of other complications associated with the virus," she added.

The couple - both in their early 40s - lead active lifestyles and said they were surprised at how quickly the virus had knocked them for six.

Last month, David completed a half-man iron man competition on Exmoor, as well as a triathlon in Bude; before the illness, he was in training for another iron man competition in Bolton next month.

He said he had developed the symptoms before his partner and had been re-tracing his steps during the last week-or-so to try and work out where and when he'd become infected.

"I've been trying to pin the trail down and think that I picked up the illness at a company awards ceremony in a hotel in London last Thursday night.

"A director and five of the team at the ceremony have been ill this week so I'm 99 per cent sure that's where it came from."

Ironically, David works for a large European pharmaceutical firm that has agreed to donate 100 million doses of vaccine to the World Health Organisation (WHO) later this month.

"Once the WHO had agreed on the strain and strength of the virus, the company I work for was one of a number of pharmaceutical firms that have offered to donate vaccines to help deal with the pandemic," he said.

"It's quite an ironic situation I've found myself in; for a few days it was a case of water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink."

Around 8,000 people a week are now estimated to be contracting the H1N1 swine flu virus in England.

Following guidelines issued earlier this month by the Health Secretary Andy Burnham, GPs are no longer swabbing patients and awaiting the results of tests. Instead, if a patient has a fever, high temperature or two or more of the following symptoms - a sore throat, cough, runny nose or headache - then anti-viral medicine is usually prescribed.

Jill, a medical professional, urged people with similar symptoms not to turn up at GP practices or local hospitals, but to call the swine flu information line 08001 513513 or visit www.nhs.uk where they can check any symptoms online.

"The emphasis is on limiting the risk of infection by staying at home and making sure you have a close family member, friend or neighbour who will collect medicine and any other supplies you need.

"I would urge everyone to find a 'flu friend' now as you might find it more difficult to do so after you've contracted the illness.

"Even highly-educated friends of mine reacted with what was almost hysteria when I told them I had swine flu.

"With a number of deaths in recent weeks I can understand the degree of hysteria but although it's a pretty virulent strain, it's fortunately not much worse than seasonal flu."

Devon PCT has issued the following "catch it, bin it, kill it" advice to reduce the risk of catching or spreading swine flu:

* Always cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.

Dispose of dirty tissues promptly and carefully.

* Maintain good basic hygiene, for example washing hands frequently with soap and warm water to reduce the spread of the virus from your hands to face, or to other people.

* Clean hard surfaces, such as door handles, frequently using a normal cleaning product.

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