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 Teen with H1N1 left to fend for herself

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PostSubject: Teen with H1N1 left to fend for herself   Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:41 am

Parents move out and are so afraid they don't even bring her food

By Crystal Chan
December 06, 2009

You're down with fever and need tender-loving care. Who do you turn to?

Family, of course.

Not so for Laura Lee.

The 15-year-old student has been left alone to battle the H1N1 virus at home for almost two weeks.

Her parents moved out of their three-room flat in Ang Mo Kio to stay with relatives, leaving her to fend for herself.

The reason: Fear.

So afraid are they of being infected that they won't even bring food to their only child. They stay in touch by calling her on the phone every day.

Reluctant to leave home because she doesn't want to risk infecting others, Laura has been surviving on only instant noodles and plain porridge.

Laura told the The New Paper on Sunday that she came down with a fever on 22 Nov.

She went to see a GP, who gave her normal flu medication.

Laura said: "I thought it was the common flu and I'd hoped to recover by last weekend as I was meeting a friend to celebrate her birthday."

But Laura's plans were dashed.

She had gone for a blood test on 24 Nov.

On the same day, her parents moved out.

They had suspected her illness to be more than the common flu.

The results the next day confirmed that she had H1N1.

By then, her temperature was 39.3 degrees Celsius.

Before moving out, her mother, Mrs Lily Lee, 45, a housewife, had become worried when Laura showed no sign of improvement.

Her dad, Mr Andy Lee, 52, is a call centre officer at a government agency.

The couple moved out to stay with Mr Lee's brother and sister-in-law.

Since the effects of H1N1 have been shown to be mild, contact tracing and quarantine orders are generally not required.

Fear

Mr Lee and his wife declined comment, but their nephew, Mr Paul Lee, 42, an odd-job worker, explained that the couple was afraid of falling ill.

He said: "They're not that young. If they get H1N1, they fear their bodies may not be able to fight it.

"The virus could be all over their flat so they don't feel comfortable even leaving food on the doorstep for Laura."

But aren't they being irresponsible by leaving their young daughter to fend for herself?

Mr Lee said: "There's enough vegetables and meat in the fridge, and Laura can make instant noodles.

"She's old enough to look after herself.

"Besides, it's only for a short while and the rest of the family are still contactable by handphone."

He pointed out that Laura's parents call her every day to check on her.

He said: "Once Laura recovers and has been given the all-clear, my uncle and aunt will go home."

But Dr Vincent Chia, deputy medical director of Healthway Medical Group, feels Laura's parents are overreacting.

Said Dr Chia: "Her parents should have just got a H1N1 vaccination and they'd be safe. They could also practise good hygiene, if they continued to live with her, such as washing their hands thoroughly and wearing masks.

"They're overreacting by moving out, especially when she needs care and attention."

He added that H1N1 is preventable and treatable and should not be treated like Sars.

Only those aged 65 years and above, children under 5, pregnant women, and adults and children with underlying medical problems such as asthma and diabetes, face a higher risk of developing complications from H1N1.

Laura said her parents do not have existing health problems.

But she understands how her parents feel.

"At their age," said Laura over the phone. "I can understand that they're more anxious about their health.

"They could have gotten vaccinated, but they were afraid after reading about the side effects in the media."

As of 22 Nov, the Health Sciences Authority's Vigilance Branch, which monitors vaccine safety on the national level, received 27 adverse event reports suspected to be associated with the use of a H1N1 vaccine not manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline.

Of the 27 people in Singapore who came down with adverse reactions after being vaccinated, most have recovered.

The reactions included minor anticipated side effects such as fever, rashes, flu-like symptoms, headaches, nausea and vomiting.

"These reactions are commonly expected from all flu vaccines and most of these reactions are resolved within a few days," the HSA spokesman had said.

Daily monitoring

Laura takes her temperature daily with a thermometer that her school issued earlier this year, when the H1N1 virus broke out in Mexico.

She also has two boxes of surgical masks in case she needs to visit a pandemic-preparedness clinic if her fever worsens.

She refuses to leave home as she does not want to spread her illness.

"Keeping myself busy is not a problem as the medicine makes me drowsy so I'm asleep for half the day," said Laura, who spends the rest of her time watching TV and surfing the Internet, or chatting online with friends.

Her friends have offered to take food to her, but she does not want to bother them.

She said: "I don't even have a good appetite because of the medicine I'm taking.

"For now, I just want to get well soon. I'm still running a fever."

Source: http://tnp.sg/news/story/0,4136,223064,00.html?

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