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Views & Reviews Personal View

“You can’t have swine flu”

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 22 July 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b2969
  1. Susan Mayor, freelance journalist, London
  1. susanmayor{at}

    “Never assume” is a good maxim for life in general, but it seems particularly apt as we try to get to grips with the first major new disease to hit us for some time.

    I immediately dismissed the possibility that I may have had swine flu when I suddenly developed a high temperature, headache, sore throat, and cough on the last day of attending a major oncology congress in Orlando, Florida.

    At the time (the end of May) only a small number of British people had developed the infection after holidaying in Mexico. I hadn’t been to Mexico, so I couldn’t have it. And as a freelance medical journalist and editor I can’t be ill—otherwise news stories don’t meet their deadlines, pages go empty, and I don’t get paid.

    After downing a couple of ibuprofen pills I wrapped up some reports, finished my packing, and made my way to the airport. I coughed throughout the flight back to the United Kingdom but put that down to the plane’s air conditioning. My overwhelming need to lie down when I got home and my very sore eyes I put down to jet lag. The need to stay in bed for the next couple of days I attributed to a virus I had picked up at the congress.

    Having promised to act as news editor on the …

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