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Med school official has close encounter with flu


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POSTED: Friday, December 18, 2009

H1N1 influenza “;is a frightening kind of flu the way it knocks you down,”; says Tina Shelton, director of public relations for the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine, describing her bout with the virus.

No vaccine was available in July when she became ill with what turned out to be pneumonia caused by swine flu, she said.

“;I got stuffy. I felt like I had a really bad flu or cold, and I went to my primary care doctor.”;

Her doctor told her she could not be tested for swine flu under state Department of Health rules because she did not have a fever, she explained.

“;She gave me the usual cold medicine and instructions for my bronchitis, and I went home.”;

Since the doctor did not think she had swine flu, she went to work the next day because a big strategic planning retreat was scheduled.

“;I wore a mask, but the whole day under the mask I was coughing badly,”; said Shelton.

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At the session, doctors kept telling her, “;You've got to get that checked out,”; she said. “;By the end of the day, they were all saying I needed to get a chest X-ray.”;

She returned to her doctor, who recommended she see a pulmonologist. By that time she said, “;I was barely standing. I was just so tired, fatigued and wiped out. I had a cough that was a killer.”;

A chest X-ray showed she had pneumonia, and the doctor told her to stay home for 10 days, she said.

“;During that time, literally I couldn't get out of bed,”; she said. “;I couldn't cook. I got some great reading done. ... Thankfully, I work at a medical school. Everyone there was like, 'Do stay home.' They even sent flowers.

“;When I went back to the doctor after 11 days to go back to work, she said, 'You had swine flu and we missed it.'”;