10 Things You Should Know About The H1N1 Virus This Season

Swine Flu Update > 10 Things You Should Know About The H1N1 Virus This Season

H1N1-pandemic-logoHere you will find updated information about the H1N1 Virus (Swine Flu) as we’re heading into the fall and flu season of 2009.

The global swine flu epidemic has sickened more than 1 million Americans and about 500 people have succumbed to it since it first emerged last April. Since it has spread worldwide, tens of thousands have been infected and nearly 2,000 have died.

As this summer is winding down, the virus has surprisingly taken a stronghold in the United States, refusing to fade away as flu viruses normally do. Health officials are now predicting a surge of cases this fall season, perhaps being more substantially noticeable in the very near future as schools have reopened for the new school year.

A panel of experts from a recent White House report  suggests that from 30% to 50% of the population could catch swine flu during the course of this pandemic and that from 30,000 to 90,000 could possibly die.

So how worried should you be and how do you prepare?

To help consolidate the mass amount of information being released by the panel of experts in Washington DC along with the CDC (Center For Disease Control), here are 10 things you should know to be more knowledgeable or to put it another way, “flu-savvy”.

(1) – There is NO cause for panic –

So far, swine flu isn’t much more threatening than regular seasonal flu. During the few months of this new flu’s existence, hospitalizations and deaths from it seem to be lower than the average in comparison to seasonal flu, and the virus hasn’t dramatically mutated. That’s what health officials have observed in the Southern Hemisphere where flu season is now winding down. Still, more people are susceptible to swine flu and American health officials are worried because it took such a firm grasp here during the summer….. a time of year the flu usually dissipates.

(2) – The virus will be tougher on selective groups –

Swine flu is more of a threat to certain groups:

  • children under 2
  • pregnant women
  • people afflicted with health problems like asthma, diabetes and heart disease

Teens and young adults are also more vulnerable to swine flu.

Ordinary, seasonal flu hits older people the hardest, but not in this case with the swine flu. Scientists think older people may have built up some immunity to it from exposure over the years to viruses similar to swine flu.

(3) – Wash your hands longer and more frequently –

Just like with seasonal flu, Swine Flu spreads through the coughs and sneezes of people who are sick. You should emphasize to children that they should wash with soap and water long enough to finish singing the alphabet song, “Now I know my ABC’s…”

It is also highly recommended to use alcohol-based hand sanitizers on a regular basis.

(4) – Get the kids and most ‘at-risk’ groups vaccinated –

These groups should be first in line for swine flu shots, especially if vaccine supplies are limited:

  • Young people from 6 months to 24 years old
  • Pregnant women
  • People affected with those high-risk medical conditions previously noted.
    Also a priority:
  • Health care workers.
  • Parents and caregivers of infants

(5) – Act quickly and get your shots early –H1N1_Vaccine

Millions of swine flu shots should be available by mid-October. If you are in one of the priority groups, try to get your shot as early as possible. Check with your doctor or (local or state) health department about where to do this. Many children should be able to get vaccinated at school. You can expect permission forms to be sent home in advance.

(6) – Immunity takes awhile –

Even those first in line for shots won’t have immunity until around Thanksgiving. That’s because it’s more than likely going to take two shots… given three weeks apart… to provide protection. And it takes a week or two after the last shot for the vaccine to take full effect. The regular seasonal flu shot should be widely available in September.

People over 50 are urged to be among the first to get that shot.

(7) – Vaccines are being tested –

Health officials presume the swine flu vaccine is safe and effective, but they’re testing it to make sure. The federal government has begun studies in eight cities across the country to assess its effectiveness and figure out the best dose. Vaccine makers are doing their own tests as well.

(8) – If you’re surrounded by swine flu, then what? –

If an outbreak of swine flu hits your area before you’re vaccinated… be extra cautious!

  • In general, try to keep your distance from people — Stay away from public gathering places like malls, sports events, concerts, churches, crowded movie theaters, crowded restaurants, etc.
  • Keep washing those hands with soap and water (remember the sanitizer also) and keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth.

(9) – What if you get sick? –

  • If you have other health problems or are pregnant and develop flu-like symptoms, call your doctor right away. You may be prescribed Tamiflu or Relenza. These drugs can reduce the severity of swine flu if taken right after symptoms start.
  • If you develop breathing problems (rapid breathing for kids), pain in your chest, constant vomiting or a fever that keeps rising… go to an emergency room.
  • Most people should just stay home and get some rest.
  • Cough into your elbow or shoulder.
  • Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever breaks.
  • Fluids and pain relievers like Tylenol can help with aches and fever.
  • Always check with a doctor before giving children any medicines. Adult cold and flu remedies are not meant for them.

(10) – No swine flu from barbecue –

You can’t catch swine flu from pork – or poultry either (even though it recently turned up in some turkeys in Chile).

Swine flu is not spread by handling meat, whether it’s raw or cooked.

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Here are a few recent posts from this blog related to this important topic:

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cdc_logoFor any additional information, go to the CDC website(s) listed below:

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/

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Key Facts About Swine Flu – H1N1 Virus

What is Swine Influenza?
swine-flu-label-blueSwine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pigs. Swine flu viruses cause high levels of illness and low death rates in pigs. Swine influenza viruses may circulate among swine throughout the year, but most outbreaks occur during the late fall and winter months similar to outbreaks in humans. The classical swine flu virus (an influenza type A H1N1 virus) was first isolated from a pig in 1930.

How many swine flu viruses are there?
Like all influenza viruses, swine flu viruses change constantly. Pigs can be infected by avian influenza and human influenza viruses as well as swine influenza viruses. When influenza viruses from different species infect pigs, the viruses can reassort (i.e. swap genes) and new viruses that are a mix of swine, human and/or avian influenza viruses can emerge. Over the years, different variations of swine flu viruses have emerged. At this time, there are four main influenza type A virus subtypes that have been isolated in pigs: H1N1, H1N2, H3N2, and H3N1. However, most of the recently isolated influenza viruses from pigs have been H1N1 viruses.

Swine Flu in Humans

Can humans catch swine flu?
Swine flu viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with swine flu have occurred. Most commonly, these cases occur in persons with direct exposure to pigs (e.g. children near pigs at a fair or workers in the swine industry). In addition, there have been documented cases of one person spreading swine flu to others. For example, an outbreak of apparent swine flu infection in pigs in Wisconsin in 1988 resulted in multiple human infections, and, although no community outbreak resulted, there was antibody evidence of virus transmission from the patient to health care workers who had close contact with the patient.

How common is swine flu infection in humans?
In the past, CDC received reports of approximately one human swine influenza virus infection every one to two years in the U.S., but from December 2005 through February 2009, 12 cases of human infection with swine influenza have been reported. For information on the number of probable and confirmed cases of novel H1N1 flu in humans see Novel H1N1 Flu Situation Update.

What are the symptoms of swine flu in humans?
The symptoms of swine flu in people are expected to be similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Can people catch swine flu from eating pork?
No. Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food. You can not get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160°F kills the swine flu virus as it does other bacteria and viruses.

How does swine flu spread?
Influenza viruses can be directly transmitted from pigs to people and from people to pigs. Human infection with flu viruses from pigs are most likely to occur when people are in close proximity to infected pigs, such as in pig barns and livestock exhibits housing pigs at fairs. Human-to-human transmission of swine flu can also occur. This is thought to occur in the same way as seasonal flu occurs in people, which is mainly person-to-person transmission through coughing or sneezing of people infected with the influenza virus. People may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

What do we know about human-to-human spread of swine flu?
In September 1988, a previously healthy 32-year-old pregnant woman was hospitalized for pneumonia and died 8 days later. A swine H1N1 flu virus was detected. Four days before getting sick, the patient visited a county fair swine exhibition where there was widespread influenza-like illness among the swine.

In follow-up studies, 76% of swine exhibitors tested had antibody evidence of swine flu infection but no serious illnesses were detected among this group. Additional studies suggest that one to three health care personnel who had contact with the patient developed mild influenza-like illnesses with antibody evidence of swine flu infection.

How can human infections with swine influenza be diagnosed?
To diagnose swine influenza A infection, a respiratory specimen would generally need to be collected within the first 4 to 5 days of illness (when an infected person is most likely to be shedding virus). However, some persons, especially children, may shed virus for 7 days or longer. Identification as a swine flu influenza A virus requires sending the specimen to CDC for laboratory testing.

What medications are available to treat swine flu infections in humans?
There are four different antiviral drugs that are licensed for use in the US for the treatment of influenza: amantadine, rimantadine, oseltamivir and zanamivir. While most swine influenza viruses have been susceptible to all four drugs, the most recent H1N1 influenza viruses isolated from humans are resistant to amantadine and rimantadine.

What other examples of swine flu outbreaks are there?
Probably the most well known is an outbreak of swine flu among soldiers in Fort Dix, New Jersey in 1976. The virus caused disease with x-ray evidence of pneumonia in at least 4 soldiers and 1 death; all of these patients had previously been healthy. The virus was transmitted to close contacts in a basic training environment, with limited transmission outside the basic training group. The virus is thought to have circulated for a month and disappeared. The source of the virus, the exact time of its introduction into Fort Dix, and factors limiting its spread and duration are unknown. The Fort Dix outbreak may have been caused by introduction of an animal virus into a stressed human population in close contact in crowded facilities during the winter. The swine influenza A virus collected from a Fort Dix soldier was named A/New Jersey/76 (Hsw1N1).

Swine Flu in Pigs

pigsHow does swine flu spread among pigs?
Swine flu viruses are thought to be spread mostly through close contact among pigs and possibly from contaminated objects moving between infected and uninfected pigs. Herds with continuous swine flu infections and herds that are vaccinated against swine flu may have sporadic disease, or may show only mild or no symptoms of infection.

What are signs of swine flu in pigs?
Signs of swine flu in pigs can include sudden onset of fever, depression, coughing (barking), discharge from the nose or eyes, sneezing, breathing difficulties, eye redness or inflammation, and going off feed.

How common is swine flu among pigs?
H1N1 and H3N2 swine flu viruses are endemic among pig populations in the United States and something that the industry deals with routinely. Outbreaks among pigs normally occur in colder weather months (late fall and winter) and sometimes with the introduction of new pigs into susceptible herds. Studies have shown that the swine flu H1N1 is common throughout pig populations worldwide, with 25 percent of animals showing antibody evidence of infection. In the U.S. studies have shown that 30 percent of the pig population has antibody evidence of having had H1N1 infection. More specifically, 51 percent of pigs in the north-central U.S. have been shown to have antibody evidence of infection with swine H1N1. Human infections with swine flu H1N1 viruses are rare. There is currently no way to differentiate antibody produced in response to flu vaccination in pigs from antibody made in response to pig infections with swine H1N1 influenza.

While H1N1 swine viruses have been known to circulate among pig populations since at least 1930, H3N2 influenza viruses did not begin circulating among US pigs until 1998. The H3N2 viruses initially were introduced into the pig population from humans. The current swine flu H3N2 viruses are closely related to human H3N2 viruses.

Is there a vaccine for swine flu?
Vaccines are available to be given to pigs to prevent swine influenza. There is no vaccine to protect humans from swine flu. The seasonal influenza vaccine will likely help provide partial protection against swine H3N2, but not swine H1N1 viruses.

symptoms_of_swineflu

Swine Flu Update: 10 Things You Should Know About The H1N1 Virus This Season

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cdc_logoMore information can be found at the website of the Center for Disease Control & Prevention. Here is the link >>>

http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu

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Tamiflu Strongly Urged by CDC For Pregnant Women Who Get Swine Flu

If you’re pregnant, you’re at such high risk of complications such as pneumonia, dehydration and premature labor that you should be treated at once with the antiviral drug Tamiflu — even though it is not normally recommended in pregnancy. Because a positive test for the new H1N1 flu can take days Tamiflu should be given to any pregnant patient with flu symptoms and a history of likely contact with someone else with swine flu.
Up until now, swine flu has not proven to be much more dangerous than seasonal influenza. It is not clear whether pregnant women catch swine flu more often than other people, but in general, the flu poses additional risks for pregnant women.

Pregnancy weakens a woman’s immune system so that she is more likely to suffer pneumonia when she catches the flu. In previous flu pandemics, infection also raised the risk of a premature birth claims the CDC.

Pregnant women with asthma and some other health conditions are particularly at risk for complications.

The Center For Disease Control streeses the need to get the word out about the likely benefits of prompt antiviral treatment” for pregnant women.

Still, the flu medicines’ effectiveness is somewhat limited, studies have shown. They can relieve symptoms and shorten the disease by about a day. They only work if started within 48 hours of first symptoms. Little is known about whether they cut the chances of serious flu complications.

Tamiflu is not normally recommended for use by pregnant women because the effects on the unborn child are unknown, according to Roche Laboratories, it’s creator.

The CDC and the World Health Organization said case histories in Mexico and the United States suggested that pregnancy was emerging as a risk factor rivaling asthma, diabetes, immuno-suppression and cardiovascular disease.

American doctors are reluctant to prescribe flu drugs for pregnant women unless they develop severe symptoms such as pneumonia, and pregnant women often are reluctant to take any medication. A pregnant woman is at higher risk from any flu because hormonal changes depress the immune system to protect the growing fetus.

The CDC recommendation emerged as it was becoming clear that the epidemic in the U.S. would mirror the epidemic in Mexico and similar rates of severe illness should be expected.
By contrast, the outbreak across Europe is spreading more slowly because the Europeans aggressively treat every suspected mild case with Tamiflu, health officials confirmed.

The U.S. now has more than 3,000 confirmed cases — two-thirds in people under 18 — but only 116 hospitalizations. Officials said they thought that the actual number of infections was much higher, and that infections were still occurring.

CDC officials said the swine flu may seem to be mild now, but they worried the virus would mutate into something more dangerous.

There is much that scientists are still learning about this flu. Many people suffering from swine flu — even those who are severely ill — do not have fever, an odd feature of the new virus that could increase the difficulty of controlling the epidemic, according to Richard Wenzel, a leading American infectious-disease expert who last week examined cases in Mexico.

Another concern is that it will combine with the seasonal flu virus that went around over the winter. That virus was not unusually virulent, but it was resistant to Tamiflu — the current first-line defense against the new swine flu.

If the two virus strains combine, it is possible that the swine flu will become resistant to Tamiflu as well, health officials worry.