"...At a hastily called news conference on Thursday night, Mr. Bloomberg said that Mr. Wiener appeared to have had some health problems that could have made him more susceptible to the virus, and colleagues and friends of the educator said said he had diabetes and sometimes walked with a cane.
"But on Friday morning, the younger Mr. Wiener told The A.P. that his father's only pre-existing condition was 'gout, which is unrelated to complications he’s experienced now.'..." (The New York Times)
New York City now has six closed schools, and cleanup crews washing them down. The Mr. Wiener who New York's mayor was talking about is an assistant principle, Mitch Wiener.
Wiener's son, Adam, "...said his father is now suffering from kidney failure, pneumonia, dehydration and a lung infection." Which isn't gout. Doesn't have much to do with gout, either: although all of the above are disorders that people can suffer from.
"...'I don't know where people got that,' Adam Wiener, 23, said Friday morning as he prepared to return to the hospital where his mother and one brother were holding a vigil.
"Adam Wiener said his father had been sick since at least last weekend with flu-like symptoms 'but we didn't think anything of it.' Then early Wednesday, he said, the family called 911 after his father began 'hallucinating and wasn't coherent.'..." (FOXNews (May 15, 2009))
If the elder Wiener's gout interfered with his walking enough to warrant a using a cane now and again, I think I can see where the confusion may have started. I've used a cane since the mid-seventies, something that most people don't seem to notice.
Once or twice, though, I've had an interesting look at how others perceive the world. Like the time a couple of college students assumed I was blind. Think about it: Blind people use canes; This fellow uses a cane; Therefore, this fellow must be blind. Sure: the cane used by some people to pinch-hit for eyesight is a standardized white color, and my walking prop is plain wood; but not everyone knows that.
In the case of Mr. Wiener, if he'd ever been seen using a cane, it might be "obvious" that he had diabetes - to someone for whom that was what canes were associated with.
Any Illness I Don't Have is MinorI think that Mr. Wiener's experience is an important reminder. Influenza A(H1N1), swine flu, or whatever this year's new disease is called, may be no more serious than influenza. But, influenza can be a serious disease.
And, I think that mayors, and even CDC and WHO officials, may not know everything there is to know about influenza A(H1N1).
Happily, the health agency officials seem to be aware of that: judging from the very cautious statements they've made.
In the news:
- "2 More Die From Swine Flu, Hundreds Sent Home Sick "
FOXNews (May 15, 2009)
- "Crews Scrub Queens Schools Hit by Flu"
The New York Times (May 15, 2009)
- "Sons: NYC asst. principal with swine flu very ill"
The Associated Press (May 15, 2009)