Swine Flu

Reviewed: April 08, 2013
By eHealthIQ
Swine Flu

Overview and Facts

Swine Flu, also known as H1N1, is a new influenza virus that was first detected in the United States in April 2009. It spread rapidly likely in the same way that regular influenza spreads from person-to-person and reached worldwide. In June, the World Health Organization declared that a pandemic of swine flu was underway

The H1N1 virus was initially referred to as swine flu because many genes in the virus showed similarity to viruses that normally occur in pigs in North America. Later research concluded that H1N1 was different from the influenza virus that circulates in pigs in North America and rather is comprised of two genes from flu viruses that circulate in pigs in Europe and Asia, and bird genes and human genes. Scientists have referred to this as a ‘quadruple reassortant’ virus.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of H1N1 flu virus are similar to that of the regular influenza virus. These flu symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Head and body aches
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue

Although these symptoms are very similar to that of regular influenza, H1N1 can be more serious, severe and life threatening.

Causes and Diagnosis

Swine flu is caused by the H1N1 virus. It is very contagious and spreads from person-to-person through coughing, sneezing or touching a surface with the flu virus and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

If you experience flu like symptoms, there is no cause for alarm. Usually, if you have one or more flu symptoms, you likely have the flu and should stay away from others. However, if you are at high risk for flu complications, you should see a doctor. People are high risk at children younger than 5, adults 65 and older and pregnant women.

Flu tests are available, but they may not be able to tell if it is H1N1 or a regular influenza virus. Rapid influenza diagnostic tests, which can get results of a flu test in 30 minutes, do not differentiate between the two strains. There are other laboratory tests that can tell the difference between H1N1 and regular influenza, however these tests can take up to several days.

Tests and Treatment Options

Often, there is no need to seek medical care for H1N1, as most cases are mild illnesses. However, there are warning signs that if you experience along with your flu symptom, you should seek treatment immediately.

In children, these warning signs are:

  • Bluish skin color
  • Trouble breathing
  • Not waking up or interacting
  • Fever accompanied by a rash
  • Situation where flu symptoms improve, but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Not drinking enough fluids

In adults, these warning signs are:

  • Sudden dizziness
  • Severe vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain or pressure in chest
  • Confusion
  • Situation where flu symptoms improve, but then return with fever and worse cough

If you do have H1N1, there are antiviral drugs your doctor can prescribe. These drugs are mainly being used to treat people who are very sick this flu season. Antiviral drugs can not only make you feel better, but prevent serious complications related to the flu.There is now also an H1N1 flu vaccine which protects against the 2009 strain of H1N1. A flu vaccine is the most important step in protecting against the flu.

Helpful Tips and Home Remedies

Preventing the spread of germs is the best way you can protect yourself against getting the flu, both regular influenza and H1N1.

Tips to protect your health:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water
  • Cover nose and mouth with a tissue if you cough or sneeze
  • Avoid close contact with sick people
  • Avoid touching eyes, mouth and nose
  • If you do get sick, stay home for at least 24 hours
  • Have a stash of items that can help you if you do get sick – over-the-counter medicines, hand sanitizers, tissues, etc.
  • Follow public health advice and avoid crowds

References

  • http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/swine-flu/default.htm
  • http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/swine-flu/ds01144
  • http://www.medicinenet.com/swine_flu/article.htm
  • http://pediatrics.about.com/od/swineflu/a/409_symptoms.htm
  • http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Pandemic-flu/Pages/Symptoms.aspx

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