H1N1 Misdiagnoses Could Have Consequences

On "Washington Unplugged" Wednesday, moderator Sharyl Attkisson spoke to Wall Street Journal reporter Alicia Mundy and Politico's Fred Barbash about a CBS News investigation finding that many people who were diagnosed "probable" or "presumed" to have 2009 H1N1 or "swine" flu actually did not have flu at all.

The three-month investigation found, based on state-by-state test results, that only a small fraction of cases that doctors flagged as most likely to be swine flu actually tested positive for swine flu at state labs. The vast majority of cases were negative.

Attkisson pointed out that those who think they might have had H1N1 "might mistakenly think they're immune, and might forgo the vaccine that they ought to have."

"And on the other hand, if you really have had it, the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] is saying go ahead and get the flu shot anyway because you're not sure – but that's using up a limited amount of vaccine when we're hearing there are shortages," she continued.

Barbash discussed a Brookings Institute study out Wednesday that found there are significant costs to the school closures going on around the country – "not just in dollars, but in terms of stress to the health care system." That's because health care workers often have to stay home with their kids.

"The point is to carefully consider the costs and the benefits before you immediately rush to close a school for fear that the virus will spread like wildfire through a school," Barbash said, adding: "The virus is spreading like wildfire, but whether any school ought to be closed down – the Department of Education says only when absolutely necessary."

"We want to make sure that people understand we're not trying to downplay the seriousness of swine flu, which can be very serious," Attkisson said. "But there is a risk of overreacting."

H1N1 "can be mistaken for a lot of things," Mundy said. "And the trouble is, right now, if everybody thinks they have swine flu, the use of the medicines out there, the vaccine, the use of the Purell hand sanitizer, which could backfire and make your bacteria resistant to that – all that could become an issue of overuse."

Watch the discussion above.

Click here to read the full report on CBS News' three-month long investigation.

"Washington Unplugged" appears live on CBSNews.com each weekday at 12:30 p.m. ET. Click here to check out previous episodes.

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