I have been reading about the H1N1 flu since it was first reported in Mexico and most likely, so have you. I have been worrying about it since them and to some extent, so have you. But now I have it and you probably don´t and that´s why you may be interested in knowing what is like.

How is it to have “swine flu”? Well in my case it started as a cold but in a few hours it degenerated into a nasty flu with high fever and all sort of aches throughout the body, especially in the chest. When I called my doctor in Madrid and told him what was going on, he advised me not to come to the hospital as they are concerned about patients like me going into the hospital and making others sick. While I could understand the policy of keeping sick people at home, the “have somebody pick up the Tamiflu” proposition left me somewhat surprised. Especially since I wanted to get a confirmation that I did have H1N1. My offer to send him some saliva a la 23andme fashion was politely refused. Flu I learned, it´s a social disease. You do not have one person with flu and flu is always part of an epidemic. And right now, still in the summer, the little flu there is H1N1, especially considering that in the last week I have been flying through the world´s busiest airports. So no going to the hospital and no test. Testing was done on patients that were in bad enough shape to end up at the hospital (a policy that probably leads to tremendous under reporting of the disease). I was also confused about the other piece of advise “if things get out of hand do come and check in at the hospital”. Out of hand in what sense I asked? Not being able to breath was one example. Mmmm. Not being able to breathe, I wonder how I could make it to the hospital in that condition. But whatever I decided to follow my doctor´s advise and hope for the best.

After talking to the doctor yesterday my fever kept rising, all the way up to 38.5C in spite of the heavy dosis of Paracetamol I was taking. And I couldn´t stop coughing. During the early afternoon I started taking cold medication and Tamiflu. Now a day and a half later, the good news, is that I am doing considerably better. Fever is around 37.5C and all symptoms are back to what I would call a normal flu. I am in bad shape but no worse than you have been in the past when you had any flu.

Was it the Tamiflu that made it turn around so quickly or my own immune system? Frankly I don´t know but whatever it is it is nice to be able to say a few words without coughing, a novelty of the last few hours.

Interestingly nobody around me got the flu so far. Nor Leo, Tom, Isa, Nina who were all with me. Nor people who work with me. In any case I am now keeping considerable distance from the few people I see. Wash my hands frequently and where a special 3M mask when others are around.

Update at 10pm: now the symptoms have gone from being severe and nasty, to being those of a normal flu, to being those of a normal cold. I am doing much better than last night. If this is all there is to the “swine flu” I would summarize it as 12 very tough hours. Hopefully the rest will be a quick recovery.

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fluadvisor on September 4, 2009  · 

having flu N1A1 is nothing else but pure speculation…. do a test and you will know exactly.

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Martin Varsavsky on September 4, 2009  · 

I want to do a test but they don´t take me at the hospital. I even volunteered to send a sample and they did not want to. The policy here in Spain is that if somebody reports flu like symptoms with a very rapid rise in fever and quickly deteriorating health condition is that you stay at home, send somebody for the Tamiflu and only go to the hospital if the symptons are too bad to manage at home. I insisted again today that I wanted to be tested even though I felt much better and they again refused. Now from a personal experience, having had many flu infections in my life, I have never seen anything like this meaning a flu that developed so quickly with so much fever, cough and chest pain. But then the recovery was incredibly fast as well. It´s been a day and a half and I went from being unable to walk or read to being basically fine moving around the house, answering emails for work, and even writing my blog.

Sven on September 4, 2009  · 

I hope you get well again soon!

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Guido on September 5, 2009  · 

Hey there, Mr. Varsavsky.

Not being able to make cheap, easy self-tests is definitely a problem in circumstances like this, not only for you, but also from the point of view of epidemiology. It is ironic that these days we have more control of our computers (at least us geeks) than of our bodies.

However, in the short term future there will be multi purpose devices to test for several conditions, portable, inexpensive and able to connect to your smartphone, laptop or even to the fonera! Maybe the device can monitor the water/air quality or sample cattle feces looking for antibiotic resistant bacteria. Have you thought about this?

Sequencing will be very cheap, and we will stop paying outrageous fees to companies for doing proprietary tests (like Miriad Genetics and the BCRA genes), even if desktop sequencing is (not too) far away, easy to use desktop PCR will be here next year, and you could send the amplified DNA to a commercial sequencing center.

Fonera plus this tech could yield extremely interesting results.

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alexis bonte on September 5, 2009  · 

Glad you are feeling better Martin, Guido’s point is interesting reminds me a little of the fatera: https://english.martinvarsavsky.net/general/the-fatera-joke-or-reality.html a fatera 2.0 with a 23andme JV :)))

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polac on September 5, 2009  · 

In few days, after your flu is over, and when you feel completely recovered, you should go to a hospital for a complete analysis to confirm you have had H1N1, in that case, because you are immune, I ask you to considerate to become a blood donor. Be Linus.

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andi on September 6, 2009  · 

Well, at least you got Tamiflu. Here in Sweden the policy is stay at home and don’t even think of asking for Tamiflu unless you belong to one of the groups at risk of dying.

And they are not testing everyone: the 14 year old son of a friend of mine wasn’t tested because the municipality where they live was overwhelmed by possible cases and had run out of money for testing.

However, Sweden is planning mass vaccination of the whole country, but not because they are afraid of people dying but rather because they are afraid of people staying home from work. The economy is still shaky. I suppose it makes sense.

Hope you are all right now!

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ídea producer on September 7, 2009  · 

“flu quick check – your home test kit” – made by varsavskys new start up “flu-catcher Ltd.” seems to rise @ horizon. Any ideas?

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Guido on September 7, 2009  · 

Idea producer:

There’s technology that is able to do that very cheaply, however, selling it is a nightmare, as you’d have to be approved by the FDA. However there are other markets to which the device could be targeted. And I’d really like to see these devices interacting with foneras and iPhones.

There are prototype devices that can do the same that a $2500 device for as low as ten dollars. There is huge potential there, but these days everybody is interested in ultra cheap sequencing, and this is not really well funded.

Disclaimer: I am co-founder of a start up working on Personal PCR.

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Antoin O Lachtnain on September 7, 2009  · 

I am glad you are better, but it is important to remember that H1N1 is a dangerous virus. The previously healthy, middle-aged brother of an acquaintance died of it last week after 8 days of illness. From the part of the story I heard, what seems to have gone wrong is that he was initially misdiagnosed as having pneumonia and by the time they got him into hospital, it was too late.

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Martin Varsavsky on September 8, 2009  · 

I still need to understand more about what makes people actually die from this flu. I had high fever, a lot of dry cough and overall discomfort but it was bad only for 20 hours or so. I don´t know if it was my own immune system or the Tamiflu, or a combination but it went by very fast.

Pedro on September 9, 2009  · 

Hi Martin,

One of the major differences between “normal flu” and H1N1 is the lack of or very little cough. It is possible that what you had is just a normal case of flu.

Hope your up and well,

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Martin Varsavsky on September 9, 2009  · 

From what I read the H1N1 flu comes accompanied with the dry cough I had.

cova on September 10, 2009  · 

Your doctor’s advise is shameful.In belgium where I live, in case a suspect case of H1N1 doctor’s come home to take samples for the tests, either they give you an apointment in their consultation at at certain hour were they can be sure you’ll cross no other patient.Also they have a very good protocol in hospital with a restricted area for flu patients and I have been there to do the test!
Although I was convinced this is what I had, it did not nor the other members of my family who were also ill.
The reason why i think such policy is stupid is that you are treating with tamiflu a large numebr of people who had no h1n1 and therefore you can be sure it will not be effective as a remedy anymore.
In this phase it is not dramatic yet but if the virus mutate spanish should implement a safest policy.

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