Thursday, November 05, 2009
Combating the misinformation about the H1N1 virus
By Dr. Anthony Policastro

There is a lot of misinformation floating around about the H1N1 virus. I would like to address four of the current items. The first is related to testing for H1N1. There is a test but it is not readily available. In Delaware, specimens for testing usually go to the State lab. By the time the results come back, it is too late to be of any value to treat the individual. There are some guidelines available. The first of these is to only test high risk patients. That would include people sick enough to be in the hospital with flu-like symptoms. It would include individuals with underlying diseases such as asthma and diabetes and significantly ill children under five. For that group of individuals a rapid test for Type A and Type B flu can be done. H1N1 is a form of Type A flu. A positive test means that the patient has Type A flu - it could be H1N1 or a seasonal Type A flu. So even if it is positive, it may not be H1N1. In addition, there are a lot of patients with H1N1 who have a negative Type A flu test. At best 20% of patients with H1N1 disease will have a negative Type A flu test. The bottom line is that there is no easy way of telling someone if they have H1N1 flu until after they have gotten better. The second item is related to the use of Tamiflu. Treatment with Tamiflu makes sense for individuals with diseases like asthma. For the average person with H1N1, it may make little difference to the disease. In addition, like any drug, it can cause side effects. It also has to be used within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. It is not the cure all that everyone thinks. The third item has to do with the belief that the severity of H1N1 is based upon who you catch the virus from. I have had people tell me that they were in contact with someone who had the severe disease. The virus affects everyone differently. Some people will have severe symptoms while others will have moderate. The kind of symptom that you have is related to your individual makeup. You might get severe symptoms if you catch the virus from someone with mild symptoms. You may have mild symptoms if you catch the virus from someone with severe symptoms. It is related to the individual not to the degree of illness in the next person. The fourth item is related to the H1N1 vaccine. There is a thought that this vaccine is different than the typical flu vaccine. That is not quite true. Every year the annual flu vaccine is different than the year before. There is a basic vaccine to which that particular year's suspected flu viruses are added. This year, we just happen to have two different flu vaccines. One contains the Type A and Type B viruses that are likely to be present later this winter. The other contains the H1N1 virus. The perception that the H1N1 vaccine is completely different than anything we have ever had before is not correct. By the time you read this article, there are bound to be more rumors about the H1N1 virus floating around. Most of them are driven by incomplete facts. The more facts you know, the better prepared you are to understand what is going on.

Dr. Zhang joins NMH Nanticoke Memorial Hospital welcomes Li Zhang, MD to its active medical staff as a hospitalist, a physician who specializes in the care of patients while they are in the hospital. Because hospitalists do not have a practice outside the hospital, they are able to devote all their attention to hospital patients. Working with specialists, nurses, or others involved with the patient's care, hospitalists communicate directly with the patient's primary care physician and are available to the patient and their family for questions. Dr. Zhang completed her residency in Internal Medicine at St. Mary's Hospital in Waterbury, Conn. She holds a master's in biology from the University of West Florida, has completed research in cardiology at Harvard University's Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston, Mass., and has had several research papers published throughout her career.

HIV/AIDS fundraiser The Delaware HIV Consortium and Ministry of Caring present their sixth annual 'Easy As Pie' fundraiser. For each $20 donation, you will receive a Thanksgiving pie of your choice from local bakers. All proceeds help the Delaware HIV Consortium and House of Joseph II, a program of the Ministry of Caring, provide housing and supportive services to Delawareans living with HIV/AIDS. Pies can be ordered by calling the Delaware HIV Consortium at 302-654-5471 or visiting Orders must be received by Friday, Nov. 20 at noon. Printed order forms are also available to be mailed or faxed to the Delaware HIV Consortium. Linvilla Orchards, located in Media, Pa., will provide this year's selection of Dutch Apple Crumb, Pumpkin, Pecan, No Sugar Added Apple pies, as well as a two pound, eight inch New York Style Cheesecake. Just Desserts by Jekeitta in Wilmington, will bake its famous sweet potato pie. In Sussex County, pies will be available for pick up on Tuesday, Nov. 24, at Kent/Sussex Counseling Services, 20728 DuPont Blvd., Georgetown and CAMP Rehoboth, 37 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach. Visit for specific pie pick-up hours.

Hospice welcomes new members Colm F. Connolly, JD, lawyer and partner with Morgan Lewis & Bockius in Philadelphia, was recently elected to Delaware Hospice's Board of Trustees. Connolly is a member of the Delaware Bar Association and also volunteers for Ministry of Caring. He has served on Delaware Hospice's Board in the past and has remained a longtime volunteer and supporter of the organization. Dana L. Newswanger, DO, was elected to Delaware Hospice's Board of Trustees in June. Dr. Newswanger serves as a Board Certified Family Physician at Christiana Care Health System and holds membership in the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians, American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Osteopathic Association. Dr. Newswanger also volunteers in the Delaware Medical Reserve Corps and the United States Navy Inactive Ready Reserve. Mindi Moore Tunnell, BA, JD, has joined Delaware Hospice's Board of Trustees. Mindi serves as director of Marketing for Tunnell Companies, LP, and is on counsel at Tunnell & Raysor, PA. She is a member of the Delaware State Bar Association and Sussex County Bar Association. An active member of the community, she has also volunteered for Beebe Medical Foundation, serving on the Board of Advisors and chairing the Best of the Beach Art Auction for two years.

Woman dies from H1N1 Delaware's Division of Public Health (DPH) has learned of another H1N1-related death, this time an 80-year-old Sussex County woman. She passed away Saturday, Oct. 24, in a Delaware hospital. Because she doesn't fit the typical age profile, additional H1N1 investigation was conducted to confirm her status. While people 65 years and older are much less likely to become ill with novel H1N1 flu, when people in this age group get the infection, especially those who are immunocompromised, their risk of poorer outcomes is increased. This is not surprising given that people 65 and older are generally considered at higher risk of serious flu-related complications, including those requiring hospitalization, from seasonal flu illness. Certain groups of people are at higher risk of complications from the H1N1 flu, including people with chronic underlying health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and those who are immunosuppressed. For most healthy people this has been a mild infection.

Grief holiday workshop Delaware Hospice invites everyone who is grieving the loss of a loved one to "The Ups and Downs of the Holiday" workshop on Thursday, Nov. 19, from 4 to 5:30 p.m., at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, Seaford. Paul Ganster, LCSW, grief counselor, will lead the workshop and discuss topics such as: why the holidays are stressful and difficult for those grieving; problem solving to reduce stress; suggestions on coping with the holidays; and rituals to honor your loved one. Each participant will receive a 64-page booklet, "How Will I Get through the Holidays?" by James E. Miller. Light refreshments will be provided. The workshop is free and open to the public, but registration is required as space is limited. To register, call Paul Ganster, 357-7147, or email

Fitness activities at Delaware Tech Have fun and stay active this fall by participating in fitness activities at Delaware Technical & Community College, Owens Campus. Build strength with excess bulk to create a sleek, toned body in Pilates beginning Monday, Nov. 2. Release tension and stress through meditation, breathing and stretching exercises in Yoga, beginning Nov. 2 and Nov. 4. Get a great workout in the Cardio Combo Class on Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning Nov. 3. Children and adults can learn basic karate movements, improve coordination and concentration in karate courses beginning Saturday, Nov. 7, at 10 a.m. for ages 7-12 and 11:10 a.m. for ages 13 and older. Learn about the culture of the Middle East through dance technique and music in Belly Dance Choreography or step up the pace in Belly Dance Aerobics, beginning Thursday, Nov. 12. Horseback riding is offered for beginners at Singletree Stables in Seaford; participants will learn the basics of safety, stable management and equestrian skills beginning Saturday, Nov. 14, for ages 8 to 14 and Wednesday, Nov. 18, for ages 15 and up. For more information, contact Delaware Tech's Corporate & Community Programs at 854-6966.

Professional Caregiver Retreat Day Delaware Hospice's Family Support Center invites all those who work or volunteer in a helping profession to attend the Professional Caregiver Retreat Day on Friday, Nov. 13, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Delaware Hospice Center, Milford. Dr. Judy Pierson, licensed clinical psychologist, published author and dynamic speaker, will discuss topics such as: the cost of caring;assess your own well-being; understanding vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue; strategies for coping with the stress of this work; and creating your own personal self-care plan. The retreat is $99 per person (continental breakfast and lunch included). Application has been made for 6.0 continuing education hours for social workers and nurses. Participants will leave with information about the impact of their work, specific coping techniques, and a strategy for improving their work life tomorrow. Due to space limitations, early registration is recommended. To register and for more information, call Vicki Costa, associate director of the Family Support Center, 302-856-7717, ext. 1129.

Hospice offers Grief Support group Delaware Hospice is offering an eight-week group meeting for adults who have experienced the death of a loved one. The group will meet Wednesday afternoons from 5 to 6:30 p.m., until Dec. 2, at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, 801 Middleford Road, Seaford. Find out what normal grief "looks" like; learn about the "tasks of mourning;" identify your coping style and develop coping skills that feel right for you; share as much or as little as you would like. This activity is provided free to the public by Delaware Hospice; however, registration is required. To register, call Paul Ganster at 302-357-7147.

Depression Support Group There is a free bimonthly Depression Support Group meeting in Laurel on the second and fourth Wednesday evenings from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Any person who has signs and symptoms of depression and is under the care of a professional counselor/MD is welcome to attend. To register, call Life Matters Counseling and Consulting at 302-465-6612.