Swine Flu – An Overview

A new strain of H1N1 appeared in April 2009. The new strain contained different strains of flu, including the swine, avian and the human influenza viruses. Previously, swine flu only affected people who had been in contact with pigs. This new virus is not common since it can spread between humans. The H1N1 swine flu apparently appeared in Mexico and spread to other countries and continents.

The causes of swine flu

Health professionals think that swine flu spreads like the seasonal flu does. Someone who is infected with swine flu releases small droplets that contain the virus in the air when sneezing or coughing. The flu will spread to people who touch the droplets or come in contact with a surface covered in the virus. Someone who has swine flu can actually become contagious a whole day before they start showing any of the symptoms. They can remain contagious for seven days after they have been sick. Children can remain contagious for ten days. Even though the virus is called swine flu, you cannot become sick from eating pork products. Remember to cook pork at a temperature of 160 degrees in order to avoid other illnesses.

H1N1What are swine flu symptoms?

The symptoms of the swine flu are very similar to the regular seasonal influenza. These symptoms include:

  • coughing
  • a fever and chills
  • a sore throat
  • a runny nose
  • aches such as headaches or body aches
  • fatigue
  • vomiting and feeling nauseous

Swine flu can cause complications such as pneumonia or respiratory failure. If you suffer from diabetes or asthma, swine flu could worsen these conditions. If you experience more serious symptoms such as severe vomiting, dizziness, confusion or shortness of breath you should call 911 or see your doctor right away. Seasonal flu is typically dangerous for young children, the elderly or people who have a weak immune system. Swine flu can be life-threatening to individuals who do not fit into these categories.

How do you know if you have swine flu?

A lab test is needed in order to determine if you have swine flu or the seasonal flu because the symptoms are so similar. A quick flu test done by your doctor often leads to a false negative result and cannot be used as a trustworthy way to diagnose the kind of flu you suffer from.

Your doctor will take a sample from your nose or your throat to test it for swine flu. The CDC says that not everyone needs to be tested to confirm whether or not they suffer from swine flu. People who have a higher risk of developing swine flu should be tested first according to the CDC. This includes: –

  • Young children under the age of 5
  •  People over the age of 65
  • Children, adolescents under the age of 18 who need long-term aspirin therapy These children and adolescents might become more likely to develop Reye syndrome after contracting the swine flu
  •  Pregnant women
  • Adults or children who suffer from chronic conditions including pulmonary, hepatic, hematological, cardiovascular, neurologic, metabolic or neuromuscular disorders
  • People who have immunosuppression, including immunosuppression caused by treatments or by HIV
  • People who stay in nursing facilities

How can swine flu be treated?

The antibiotics that can be used against bacterial infections do not work against swine flu since it is caused by a virus. Some of the antiviral treatments used against season flu are very efficient against swine flu, such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza). Taking these treatments should shorten the swine flu and make the symptoms less severe. It is best to take the drugs 48 hours before you experience the first symptoms but you will still benefit from taking the drugs later than 48 hours after the symptoms appear. If you suffer from aches, fever or pains, taking some Tylenol or some Motrin can help relive these symptoms but will not make the swine flu disappear. Keep in mind that children under the age of 18 should not take aspirin because it increases the risks of developing Reye syndrome. Always check the labels of over-the-counter treatments to make sure they do not contain any aspirin.

Swine flu vaccine

A seasonal flu vaccine will protect you three strains of influenza. These include the H1N1 swine flu strain. You can get the vaccine as a dead virus particle or as a weakened form of the virus. This first option comes as a flu shot and the second as a nasal spray. Both solutions will train your immune system to defend yourself against the virus.

There are other things you can do avoid catching swine flu besides vaccination. These things include:

    • Wash your hands as often as possible with some soap or water or with a hand sanitizer that contains alcohol. Make sure you wash your hands long enough.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or your mouth, especially if you find yourself in crowded places or in public transportation.
    • Stay away from people who seem to be sick.

Source – WebMD

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