Mystery Illness Strikes U Household
September 28, 2011 5:33 AM   Subscribe

What did I and my kids just recover from?

This illness struck all the children and one adult. The symptoms were a high fever (over 103 for a few hours, including the adult) and a sore throat. After the fever abated, the sore throat persists for a day or two. Based on when each of us got it, the incubation period was around 48-60 hours.

No nausea, although two children did throw up once each (one probably because she throws up if you look at her funny and the other because he's very suggestible).

No congestion in the head or chest. No coughing nor other particular aches, pains or problems. No diarrhea, rashes, flushes or swellings. Except for the sore throat, the entire thing was over in under 24 hours for each person.

I would just call it one of those weird illnesses kids sometimes get, except that a 103.6 fever in an adult seems like a pretty serious matter and I'd like to know what it was.

The one unaffected person, an adult, has had a flu shot, although the illness doesn't sound anything like flu to me.
posted by DU to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I got something like that once and the doctor suspected Strep Throat -- except I tested negative for that and we never found out. But it was acting enough like strep throat that that's at least a plausible guess.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:42 AM on September 28, 2011

Response by poster: Right, strep is the other thing we suspected. Except we all got better without antibiotics and the time frame is too compressed.

I started feeling iffy on Sunday afternoon. When I woke up Monday morning I felt kind of crappy but stupidly went to work anyway. By noon I was home again and at 2pm had over 103 fever. By 7 pm the fever was down to 101 and by 10pm down to 99 or 100. All day Tuesday I had maybe .5-1.5 degree fever and a sore throat, but was otherwise fine.
posted by DU at 6:03 AM on September 28, 2011

Could have been Coxsackie Virus, though it's not all that common in adults or older children.
posted by Mchelly at 6:48 AM on September 28, 2011

I had something like that a few years ago, and my doctor retroactively diagnosed me as having the bird flu. I don't know how high my fever got, because it spiked in the middle of the night, but it was high -- and then I was fine. 24 hours, sore throat, all that.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:20 AM on September 28, 2011

Response by poster: Bird flu would be an awesome story. But it looks like pink eye is another symptom, which we didn't have. Also a cough, which we also don't have. Plus we'd each have to have gotten it from a bird, not from each other. That's kind of unlikely, as we never come in contact with birds.

That said, we have a bird-killing *cat* and maybe it was on his fur? But it seems coincidental that one child would get it on Friday and then all the rest of us on Sunday. It sure looks like we caught it from the one child, which seems to rule out bird flu.

Also, according to, no confirmed cases of bird flu have been found in the US. It would be even more awesome to be the first to have gotten it. But it also sounds like your doctor was just guessing or giving you an awesome story to tell, because s/he didn't report it to the CDC.
posted by DU at 7:31 AM on September 28, 2011

I'm pretty sure you don't usually catch Bird Flu from birds... it's a mutation of the bird flu virus which crossed from birds to humans a while back. Presumably, after the huge cull of infected birds, it's now more common to catch it from another human.

However, you're right that it IS pretty unlikely that this is what you had. Yours is more likely another strain of flu, perhaps one rather similar in make-up, given the symptoms in common, but not quite the same clearly. The flu virus is mutating all the time, that's why we can't ever wipe it out or effectively vaccinate against it - yours is likely just one of many, many strains!
posted by greenish at 8:15 AM on September 28, 2011

Response by poster:
H5N1 (Bird) flu virus is an influenza A virus subtype that is highly contagious among birds, and can be deadly to them. The H5N1 (Bird) flu virus does not usually infect people, but rare infections with these viruses have occurred in humans. Nearly all human cases have resulted from people having direct or close contact with H5N1-infected poultry or H5N1-contaminated surfaces.
not to mention
Overall mortality in reported H5N1(Bird) flu cases is approximately 60%. The majority of cases have occurred among children and adults aged less than 40 years old. There have been very few cases of human-to-human transmission. Flu recipients in such cases have all died and there was no further spread.
(both from:

Needless to say, none of us died.
posted by DU at 8:25 AM on September 28, 2011

I think people are referring to H1N1
posted by atomicstone at 8:42 AM on September 28, 2011

There are at least a dozen flu or flu-like viruses that can cause those symptoms. You'll probably never know what it really was.
posted by Citrus at 9:00 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm also nthing the flu. Not H5N1, perhaps, but some strain.
posted by Falwless at 9:02 AM on September 28, 2011

I get strep *really* often. And that's pretty much exactly how it is for me. And if you just recovered, it may be worth going and getting swabbed at a doctor anyways, since strep can occasionally do awful things if left untreated, even after symptoms are gone. I don't usually get that strain - but it is possible.

Could also be the flu. And I believe that the thing that everyone was worried about was that the bird flu might cross from bird-to-human to widespread human-to-human transmission: it's still out there, and deadly, and incredibly difficult to make a vaccine for (since my understanding is that flu vaccines are usually incubated in chicken eggs but the bird flu kills them since it affects birds as well), but we've stopped worrying about it as much.
posted by R a c h e l at 9:14 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

DU, I read different:

"Bird flu transmission can occur through the air - by droplet transmission - during coughing, sneezing and talking."

I think this is talking about strains of Avian Flu which have mutated to be able to transmit from human to human, as mentioned in your link. To be honest, I'm not sure - you could be right! But I think we're both agreed that this is not what you done got :)
posted by greenish at 9:14 AM on September 28, 2011

There are at least a dozen flu or flu-like viruses that can cause those symptoms. You'll probably never know what it really was.

Citrus has hit the nail on the head, here.
posted by FrereKhan at 9:18 AM on September 28, 2011

Response by poster: I get strep *really* often. And that's pretty much exactly how it is for me. And if you just recovered, it may be worth going and getting swabbed at a doctor anyways, since strep can occasionally do awful things if left untreated, even after symptoms are gone.

Well now this is pretty interesting. Someone at work was telling me how untreated strep can be bad and I was like...but how would you let it get that far without going to the doctor for searing throat pain. But if symptoms can disappear while the virus covertly keeps operating....
Untreated streptococcal pharyngitis usually resolves within a few days.[3] Treatment with antibiotics shortens the duration of the acute illness by about 16 hours.[3] The primary reason for treatment with antibiotics is to reduce the risk of complications such as rheumatic fever and retropharyngeal abscesses[3] and they are effective if given within 9 days of the onset of symptoms.[6]
And it can do this even after symptoms are gone? Awesome.
posted by DU at 9:45 AM on September 28, 2011

The obvious thing to me is that your immune systems did a bang up job in wiping out the virus/bacteria invading your body, which is great news! Fever is one of the ways you know your body is fighting something off, and it looks like it worked. There are so many different types of viruses and mutations that what you had may not even be identified at this point. It's hard to tell just based on symptoms.
posted by MultiFaceted at 9:50 AM on September 28, 2011

Heh, sorry, atomicstone was right -- I meant swine flu. My doctor said I'd probably had a mild case of the swine flu.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:56 AM on September 28, 2011

Response by poster: Reading up a little more on strep throat, it sounds more and more like that. Even though I feel fine (except for the throat) I made an appointment for tonight (luckily my doctor has evening hours on Wednesday).

Thanks, MeFi! I'll let you know if the "you'll never know, don't bother asking" crowd would have killed me!
posted by DU at 10:17 AM on September 28, 2011

DU, it can. My brother had exactly the sort of illness you describe, and then about four days after he recovered, he woke up with his skin bright red and painful and all his joints swollen. He went to the doctor, who said "Scarlet fever!" and my bro said "Wait, are you a time traveler from 1912?" and the doctor explained that it's a secondary reaction to strep. He was down hard for about another week. I'd go to the doctor to get checked out.
posted by KathrynT at 10:19 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to pop in to say that a negative rapid strep test doesn't mean the individual does not have strep. A throat culture is much more accurate.
posted by frecklefaerie at 11:13 AM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

But is going to the doctor after your symptoms clear going to accomplish anything? They aren't going to prescribe antibiotics for someone not experiencing symptoms. That way lies multi drug resistant madness.
posted by Justinian at 1:13 PM on September 28, 2011

Response by poster: I still have a sore throat, as does at least one other child. Plus, if the bacteria are still there and there's reason to think we recently had strep (i.e. I tell them that), it seems like the balance of evidence would indicate they should be antibioticized.
posted by DU at 2:17 PM on September 28, 2011

Response by poster: Whoops, forgot to come back here.

He did the swab test and it came back *negative*. Meanwhile, the last child and I took almost a week to get over our sore throats, but we otherwise felt just peachy. Not even tired and no trace of a fever.

No idea what it was, but it wasn't strep and it wasn't flu (according to my understanding of flu AND according to the doctor). Wife never got it.
posted by DU at 8:41 AM on October 4, 2011

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