Swine Flu and Thalassemia

May 4, 2009 – Several people have contacted CAF asking if there are any special precautions that people with thalassemia need to consider in terms of the current swine flu situation. We forwarded this question to Dr. Ellis Neufeld, the Chair of the CAF Medical Advisory Board.


For more information on Swine Flu, click here, here or here.

This is his response:

“First, a few disclaimers: I am not an infectious disease expert, and the scope of the problem is not clear yet. This will need to be reevaluated over coming days/weeks. The fact that there are 100 deaths can’t be evaluated until it is clear how many folks had mild disease. If 1000 people had the disease, this is a high fatality rate and worrisome. If 100,000 people had the disease, the death rate is lower and the concern would be lower, but more people would be affected.

“(At the moment), it’s a national health “emergency” because this allows the government to distribute anti-flu drugs in stockpiles. If it becomes a genuine emergency, it’s vital to follow official public health evaluations.

“Here are some general comments.

a. Evaluation of fever: thalassemia patients without ports/central lines should be evaluated like anybody else. CALL your physician if you have symptoms of fever, muscle aches. Don’t just go in.

b. Patients with no spleen or central lines need to be evaluated for fever even if flu is prevalent (as in February).

c. Good handwashing is the best way to stay safe!

d. Thalassemia patients will be in a unique position if this proves to be a serious epidemic because they will need to go to the hospital for transfusions, regardless. But see the disclaimers above

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