September 23rd, 2009
08:48 PM ET

I went to Afghanistan and all I got was H1N1

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/23/art.sanjay.sick.jpg caption="Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who contracted H1N1 in Afghanistan, receives treatment."]

Dr. Sanjay Gupta | BIO
AC360° Contributor
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent

It started as a cough. It wasn’t the kind of cough where something is temporarily stuck in your throat. It wasn’t the kind of cough where simply clearing your throat would’ve been adequate. This was the kind of cough that hurts when you do it. A stinging pain that makes you wince and guard and hope that you don’t have to cough again any time soon.

I thought I might have a fever, but of course, I was in the middle of covering a war in Afghanistan, and the conditions were… well, hot. So, maybe it was that. Problem was, the next day I wasn’t feeling any better – in fact, I was worse. I woke up in my dusty desert tent and tried to step out of my sleeping bag. Two steps later, I almost hit the deck. Incoming. Except this wasn’t due to any sirens going off, this was due to my own body simply being unable to hold myself up. I was lightheaded and freezing cold – even though it was over 100 degrees outside at that early hour of the morning.

I was nauseated and my entire body hurt. I tried to explain away my symptoms with lots of different excuses. You don’t sleep much while covering a war. My bulletproof jacket didn’t fit perfectly and was very heavy. There was a lot of dust and dirt, and maybe I had what the Marines referred to as the Kandahar Krud. It turned out to be none of those things.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Dr. Sanjay Gupta • H1N1
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Linda

    This spring I had a horrible, HORRIBLE cough for 9 weeks (!!)accompanied by feeling freezing cold and full time misery for about 3 of those weeks. I am never ill. I ended up in the ER at one point after my Dr. would not see me. The ER was "no longer" testing for H1N1 so I do not know if I had it. I had all of the symptoms EXCEPT the fever. Could this still be H1N1? I will be getting a new Dr. by the way! I feel for anyone who has this. The COUGH is UNBELIEVEABLY AWFUL.

    September 24, 2009 at 10:32 am |
  2. Sharon Fancher

    Everyone is being tested, but seems every test Iam hearing is coming back Type A flu with possible H1N1. It appears there is no follow up testing , so how do we really know how many cases of H1N1 the U.S. really has? What tests did you have to determine you had H1N!?

    September 24, 2009 at 8:47 am |
  3. Judith, York, ME

    Did Dr. Gupta and Anderson have the shot before their trip?

    September 24, 2009 at 8:24 am |
  4. Martina Ilstad

    Hey Doc Sanjay
    I am sorry for you,hop you feel better now.
    All the best,and keep up the good work,you ever did, and get well soon.

    September 24, 2009 at 8:00 am |
  5. tina

    I am just getting over the swine flu, as well as my husband. It came on so suddenly, and I had every symptom that is possible. My husband did not get quite as bad as he got sick after me and we both went to our doctor who confirmed indeed swine flu. Our doctor started us immediately on Relenza as well as a few other medications, which I believe is why my husband faired a bit better than I. Kind of nipped his before he got as bad. It is not a nice illness, I still have the cough after 13 days. Please all, heed the warnings. Especially if you have children. It is very uncomfortable for an adult and I am sure probably harder on a child. Take care all !!

    September 24, 2009 at 7:58 am |
  6. John

    Glad you're feeling better. We really like you!!!

    September 24, 2009 at 7:47 am |
  7. Claudia

    dr gupta,

    glad your feeling better, i just saw you on AC360 and you look very very thin right now. I know you were sick so this might have something to do with it but you look sickly and very thin. keep hydrated and feel better

    September 24, 2009 at 5:27 am |
  8. mwhite

    I am sorry to hear about you contracting H1N1.

    September 24, 2009 at 1:37 am |
  9. Mort

    Dr. Sanjay, I'm sorry to have learned of your recent bout with the H1N1 virus. Hope you have a speedy recovery. I have a few questions which I hope you can address at your earliest opportunity.

    1) Do you think that the H1N1 vaccine should be mandated, since it was rushed to the public and never subjected to the normal investigative trial before FDA approval?

    2) Are you aware that in 1976, there was a Swine Flu in which 40 million Americans were vaccinated. After some time, thousands had filed injury claims for a paralyzing medical condition known as Guillain-Barre Syndrome and other side effects?

    3) Are you aware that the US government is authorizing the use of H1N1 vaccine under a federal legislation which was passed in 2001 and it grants immunity to drug companies, health officials, and anyone administering experimental vaccines to Americans during declared public health emergencies?

    4) Why is there a focus on vaccinating the young and the elderly; 2 groups with the most compromised or weakened immunities.

    This seems more like an experiment on the public than a concerted effort to save lives.

    5) Are we a democracy and do we still have a right to choose?

    Please expound on these issues. The American public needs to be truthfully informed about this vaccine and its side effects. In addition, we need to know who stands to benefit the most financially from this vaccine. How many US Senators have vested interests in the 5 major pharmaceutical companies producing this vaccine?
    I hope that you will be forthcoming with the public in reference to the aforementioned. Thank you in anticipation.

    September 24, 2009 at 12:57 am |
  10. Donna

    So now that you got the swine flu, is there any need for you to get the vaccine coming out next month?

    September 24, 2009 at 12:00 am |
  11. Ratna, New York, NY

    Dr. Sanjay Gupta,

    You amaze me!!! You are really breaking those doctors down who suffer from the "God Complex" by showing us that even doctors can get sick!

    A friend of mine who is a freelance journalist in the Netherlands, logs her ten-month daughter anywhere she travels for stories. I would advise her not to do this with Avian and swine flu pandemic on the burst.

    September 23, 2009 at 9:09 pm |
  12. smartlinkusa

    Dr. Gupta,
    Wow! Get well soon!
    Keep up all the great work that you do for us!

    September 23, 2009 at 7:50 pm |
  13. alexlyrics

    Well at least our nations soon to be surgeon general has gotten this flu and wont miss any days on his new job following it

    September 23, 2009 at 6:56 pm |
  14. Paul Grazulis, Northern California

    Doesn't sound like fun at all... Sorry about the price you had to pay to give us your excellent and great reporting. Keep up the good work and get well soon!

    September 23, 2009 at 6:40 pm |
  15. Annie Kate


    Sorry you had the flu over in hot Afghanistan. However, I loved the way you wrote about it and your efforts to try to minimalize it at first not wanting to actually admit how sick you really felt. I know a couple of people in my family who do the exact same thing. Glad you were where you could get good treatment and could rest until you got over it. So now that you have had it, do you not have to worry about it again or can you have it several times?? Hope you are feeling 100% now but if not I hope its soon.

    September 23, 2009 at 6:28 pm |
  16. Jack, Montauk, NY

    Anderson Cooper complained of his cough on the way home, too? Did he have the same? Glad you're feeling better, did the kids catch it too now?

    September 23, 2009 at 6:08 pm |
  17. Winston Roy Ottawa, On Canada

    Dear Dr Gupta,

    Get well soon! thank you for all your hard work, I love your reporting.

    September 23, 2009 at 4:35 pm |
  18. Susan

    Dr. Gupta

    I was sorry to hear that you and your camerman got the flu in Afghanistan. I am happy to hear that you are both recovering and will be back to normal soon. It was a real public service of you to blog your symptoms. It does not sound much worse then the regular seasonal flu, maybe with some subtle differences.

    I have never gotten the seasonal flu or the seasonal flu shot, but with
    all these viruses around now I am giving it more thought this year. I guess that means three shots. Yuck !!!

    I am sure that you came get some post flu sympathy from your family if you play your cards right.

    I wish you good health for rest of the flu season.

    September 23, 2009 at 3:13 pm |
  19. Emily

    Dr. Sanjay Gupta:
    It’s great to read what you have posted here.
    Sorry you had to get this H1N1 flu. Many people are very worried about this. It’s great to read a firsthand account & from somebody creditable.
    Looking forward to seeing you back on AC360.
    Sorry to here about the flooding in Atlanta.
    I hope that your family is safe!

    September 23, 2009 at 2:19 pm |
  20. Kim

    Are you sure it's not the Quadruple Reassortant ? Feels like you've caught the entire zoo ? Great coverage Doc and feel better ! It really was eye opening incredible coverage.

    September 23, 2009 at 1:25 pm |
  21. Gayle McCauley Malden,Mass.

    Sorry that you got sick....Not to have the comfort of your own bed when you are ill is terrible! I hope that your family stays healthy : )

    September 23, 2009 at 1:15 pm |
  22. Lori

    I am so sorry. Feel better soon. Take care of yourself.

    September 23, 2009 at 12:51 pm |
  23. Malou

    Feel better.

    September 23, 2009 at 12:48 pm |
  24. Isabel Siaba, Brazil

    Hello Dr. Gupta!

    The symptoms of swine flu are really different from other senses in past flu. The person is very prostrate.

    I estimate your best! Send us news!

    Take care!

    September 23, 2009 at 12:43 pm |
  25. Cindy

    AWW Sorry to hear that you got H1N1 Sanjay! I guess flying all over the world makes you at a much higher risk of getting it. Thankfully you are fine now.

    My cousin's little 5 yr old son caught H1N1 from school. He was really sick for about nine days. Now he is fine..THANK GOD!! I along with several others in our family were exposed to it but we never came down with it.

    Hopefully this epidemic won't be as bad as they think this winter.


    September 23, 2009 at 12:41 pm |
  26. Donna Wood Lil' Tennessee

    Oh no! Poor Dr. Gupta! So now we know what happens when the Dr. gets sick. I hope you get to feeling better real soon. Take really good care of yourself and for heavens sake do what the Dr. tells you. And please, I know this sounds terrible, but, tell us all about your personal experience with H1N1 once you are better. Just curious.

    Donna Wood
    Lexington, Tennessee

    September 23, 2009 at 12:26 pm |

    It's pretty bad when a doctor gets sick. Doctors are not supposed to get sick. I hope you are feeling better.
    I too had something, but since I did not go to Afghan , it could not be the Kandahar Krud. Perhaps brain surgeons should travel less and concentrate on their profession. Don't let Anderson drag you all over the world.

    September 23, 2009 at 12:11 pm |