Should Kids Take Swine Flu Medicine Before Camp?


campAuthor and physician Marc Siegel is issuing a provocative call to parents to help stop the spread of swine flu at summer camps. Writing for Slate, Siegel describes his son Joshua’s experience at Camp Modin in Maine, where a swine flu outbreak threatened to ruin the summer.

Three days into camp, there were 16 confirmed cases of swine flu; the sick had been quarantined, and the remaining bunks were being disinfected, but Siegel was not convinced these precautions would be sufficient to stop the spread of the illness.

So he emailed the camp staff and campers’ parents explaining that he was starting Joshua on a ten-day course of Tamiflu, which has been shown to be a highly effective at preventing flu when taken within 48 hours of exposure. Soon, most of the camp was on the drug; within two days, the daily incidence of new flu cases went from 14 to 4, and no one on Tamiflu became sick.

Siegel’s Tamiflu recommendation may sound like common sense, but it actually went against CDC protocol. The Centers for Disease Control is currently recommending Tamiflu for only the sickest cases, in part due to worries about a shortage if families around the country start ordering the medecine.

But Camp Modin’s success with Tamiflu as a preventative indicates that, as Siegel puts it, “If we use it properly now, we may not need it as much in the future.” Furthermore, Siegel points out that kids at risk for the most severe cases of swine flu are those with chronic conditions like asthma, which may not yet have been diagnosed in young kids. It doesn’t make sense to put any kids at risk because of the possibility of a more severe outbreak somewhere down the line. If we have the capability to stop the spread of the illness now, why not use it?

Would you send your kid to camp with Tamiflu?