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Mom Watches as Strep Throat Turns Out to Be H1N1 (Swine) Flu
Credit:  Wikimedia Commons

(Editor's Note: This story originally ran in KCTribune on Sept. 9, and continues to generate widespread interest. We are re-running it now as a public service.)

No mother enjoys hearing a diagnosis of strep throat for her child, but the anxiety fades soon as a trip to the local drug store equips her with Amoxicillin or Ampicillin. After all, strep left untreated can lead to serious complications and even rheumatic fever, but by administering antibiotics and witnessing a child to be fever-free for 24-48 hours, she can relax and send the non-contagious child back to school.

But what if the diagnosis of strep throat turns out to mistaken, and that the real illness is swine flu, the H1N1 flu? And what if there is a second child in the home who also becomes infected?

That is exactly what Stilwell resident Kelly Gordon, the mother of two small children, has experienced. Madison, age 7, first complained of a sore throat during the first week of school. After Madison developed respiratory complications, Kelly, a registered anesthetist, decided to take her to the emergency room at Children’s Mercy Hospital. The diagnosis was strep, and a prescription of amoxicillin was written. Four days later, Madison appeared back to normal and was fever-free, so she returned to school on August 24.

Later that same day, Kelly’s younger son Lake came home from school early. He had gone to the nurse’s office because he did not feel well. The nurse reported to Kelly that Lake was "febrile but not himself." By 3:00, his temperature was 101F, and a quick call to the doctor meant he too would be taking Amoxicillin. Parents of small children anticipate their kids will catch infectious diseases while at school, and they know whatever one sibling brings home will sooner or later hook the other one. Kelly wasn’t alarmed.

Until Madison’s fever returned on Tuesday with the additional symptoms of chills, headache, and difficulty breathing. This meant a second trip to the ER on Wednesday evening, particularly because the fever remained even after administering Advil and Tylenol. Kelly asked the attending physician about testing for H1N1(Swine Flu) and was told it was not indicated.The doctor informed her that Madison likely had a virus complicated by allergies, and if she was not better in two days, a follow up visit to the primary physician would be necessary.

On Friday, August 28, Madison had not improved and, in fact, she had become lethargic. Kelly contacted the primary physician to ask about Swine Flu testing since both children had been febrile at various times, both had complained of headaches, and both had been on antibiotics - yet they were not getting consistently better. Testing was completed and diagnosis was confirmed: Madison and Lake Gordon have Swine Flu.

“What really worries me now are the kids that were exposed to my kids either on the bus or in their classrooms,” said Kelly. Madison is in the 2nd grade and Lake is a kindergartner at Stilwell Elementary. “I immediately contacted the school nurse when we were diagnosed, and I have notified the neighbors. If the test had been conducted and the diagnosis confirmed, there is no way I would have sent them back to school.”

Why didn’t the emergency room staff at Children’s Mercy think the H1N1 testing was necessary? According to a posting on its website, 10 Things You Should Know About H1N1 Influenza: Testing is recommended in patients with certain high risk underlying conditions like heart, lung disease, or immune problems since complications from influenza are more common in this group. It is also recommended in patients ill enough to be hospitalized.”

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Comments 11 comments for this article
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Added: November 23, 2009. 03:27 PM CDT
H1N1 signs, along with strep and ear infection
I went to the Er last night. I am a 41 year old female with emphysema. I have all the symptoms of the H1N1 along with white patches on my throat and a killer ear ache. My diagnosis: sore throat and middle ear infection. They did not even test me for the flu even though I am in a high risk group. I have lost all faith in the health care system. They are the ones who I went to in my time of need and I feel like they have let me down. So now I wait and hope I get better.
Added: October 19, 2009. 07:16 PM CDT
My Diabetic Son Has H1N1 and Strep Throat!!
I am scared to death. The doctor comes back in the room today and tells me its the first time he has seen a child test positive at the same time for H1N1 and Strep Throat!! Plus he is a Diabetic I dont know what to think!!!
Added: October 11, 2009. 01:05 PM CDT
Whats the deal with these personnel
It is hard enought to decide if our children should receive the vacine and even harder to put trust in the medical profession when it comes to our children. They should do what we as parents feel is the best as well as what they feel is the best. With that, the child will get the best treatment.
Sick of these doctors!
Added: October 04, 2009. 05:43 PM CDT
lingering illness with multisymptoms
symptoms have been ongoing since Labor Day with the original diagnosis being 'probably H1N1 but no swab done because it wasnot indicated. The presentation was hard coughing, feverish, ranging from slightly elevated to 102 *(in both adults ages 45-62.) Chills, lethargy, and difficulty breathing.

Later on, the younger woman received a diagnosis of asthma (never had asthma previously). The older woman received a diagnosis of bronchitis. Recently the younger woman was hospitalized with both asthma and pneumonia and they had to rule out blood clots on her lungs because her breathing was so impaired. The older woman was treated with 10 days of cepro but it's completed and she's still coughing, chilling at times and has some difficulty breathing. She says it's like it's all starting over again.

I'm wondering if there is a link to rhumatic fever from this or if this is some super bug that the government is trying to keep hush hush...and what about continuing to infect others?

What next??
Added: September 19, 2009. 09:03 AM CDT
Another question:
I wonder how common it is that people have strep and H1N1 at the same time?
Added: September 19, 2009. 09:01 AM CDT
Same in My House
My oldest son was sick and home from school for 6 days, and the entire cycle to recovery took 10 days.

We took him to the Walgreen's clinic and were told he was at the end of a cold, to send him back to school the next day. The nurse practitioner did not test him for H1N1. He went back to school that Friday, and spiked a 102 degree fever that lasted for 4 days. He was lethargic, had a headache, chills, light sensitivity, sore skin, upset stomach, and muscle aches. He had never been so docile and exhausted. We took him to the doctor the following Tuesday and he tested positive for strep, and H1N1 flu. He's on antibiotics and recovering quickly, but was very tired for several days; he's only now at full strength.

Why aren't healthcare professionals testing early for this flu? My kid also risked exposing an entire school to the flu, because the nurse practitioner didn't test him for flu. That's not right.
Added: September 17, 2009. 06:53 PM CDT
Interesting. I was given antibiotics for a sinus infection 2 weeks ago, only to get worse and have flu symptoms. I called my doctor back and he said I have strep and order me more of the same antibiotics. does that make sense to anyone?
Added: September 17, 2009. 12:50 PM CDT
i have strep throught right now and im 12 oh god
Added: September 10, 2009. 06:08 AM CDT
yeah, strep throat can be quite a nuisance
Added: September 07, 2009. 10:36 AM CDT
AHH same thing in my house!
We are on the third week of being really sick in our house. Both the children had fevers, chills, sore throats, respitory problems, and runny noses. The fever would not break even with the use of tylenol and ib. Now I have all the symptoms. When I took my 16mth old to the doctor they out-right ignored my mentioning of the "flu" and said he was only being treated for a ear infection. Bummed out mom!
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