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H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu or Swine influenza)

Swine flu is a type of virus. It's named for a virus that pigs can get. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen. The virus is contagious and can spread from human to human. Symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.

There are antiviral medicines you can take to prevent or treat swine flu. There is no vaccine available right now to protect against swine flu. You can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza by

  • Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. You can also use alcohol-based hand cleaners.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Trying to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Staying home from work or school if you are sick.
  • Swine influenza (also called swine flu, hog flu, and pig flu) is an infection of a host animal by any one of several specific types of microscopic organisms called "swine influenza virus". A swine influenza virus (SIV) is any strain of the influenza family of viruses that is usually hosted by (is endemic in) pigs.As of 2009, the known SIV strains are the influenza C virus and the subtypes of the influenza A virus known as H1N1, H1N2, H3N1, H3N2, and H2N3. Swine influenza is common in pigs in the midwestern United States (and occasionally in other states), Mexico, Canada, South America, Europe (including the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Italy), Kenya, Mainland China, Taiwan, Japan and other parts of eastern Asia.

    Transmission of swine influenza virus from pigs to humans is not common and does not always cause human influenza, often only resulting in the production of antibodies in the blood. The meat of the animal poses no risk of transmitting the virus when properly cooked. If transmission does cause human influenza, it is called zoonotic swine flu. People who work with pigs, especially people with intense exposures, are at increased risk of catching swine flu. In the mid-20th century, identification of influenza subtypes became possible, this allows accurate diagnosis of transmission to humans. Since then, fifty confirmed transmissions have been recorded, Rarely, these strains of swine flu can pass from human to human. In humans, the symptoms of swine flu are similar to those of influenza and of influenza-like illness in general, namely chills, fever, sore throat, muscle pains, severe headache, coughing, weakness and general discomfort.

    The 2009 swine flu outbreak in humans is due to a new strain of influenza A virus subtype H1N1 that contains genes closely related to swine influenza.The origin of this new strain is unknown. However, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) reports that this strain has not been isolated in pigs. This strain can be transmitted from human to human, and causes the normal symptoms of influenza.

    Pigs can become infected with human influenza, and this appears to have happened during the 1918 flu pandemic and the 2009 swine flu outbreak.

    Symptoms and expected severity

    The signs of infection with swine flu are similar to other forms of influenza, and include a fever, coughing, headaches, pain in the muscles or joints, sore throat, chills, fatigue and runny nose. Diarrhea and vomiting have also been reported in some cases.People at higher risk of serious complications included people age 65 years and older, children younger than 5 years old, pregnant women, and people of any age with underlying medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, or a weakened immune system (e.g., taking immunosuppressive medications or infected with HIV).

    Most cases mild

    Evidence mounted through May that the symptoms were milder than health officials initially feared. As of May 27, most of the 342 confirmed cases in New York City had been mild and there had been only 4 confirmed deaths from the virus. Similarly, Japan had reported 279, mostly mild flu cases, and no deaths, with the government reopening schools as of May 23, stating that the "virus should be considered more like a seasonal flu."In Mexico, where the outbreak began in April, Mexico City officials lowered their swine flu alert level as no new cases had been reported for a week.

    Symptoms that may require medical attention

    Certain symptoms may require emergency medical attention. In children, for instance, those might include blue lips and skin, dehydration, rapid breathing, excessive sleeping and significant irritability that includes a lack of desire to be held. In adults, shortness of breath, pain in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness or confusion may indicate the need for emergency care. In both children and adults, persistent vomiting or the return of flu-like symptoms that include a fever and cough may require medical attention.

    Underlying conditions may worsen symptoms

    WHO reported that almost one-half of the patients hospitalized in the United States had underlying conditions.Among 30 patients hospitalized in California," stated the WHO report, "64 percent had underlying conditions and two of five pregnant women developed complications, including spontaneous abortion and premature rupture of membranes." And on June 5, health officials in six states that reported deaths from swine flu said that all six patients had been diagnosed with other health problems.

    However, doctors in New York suggested that people with "underlying conditions" who had flu symptoms should consult their doctors first. "Visiting an emergency room full of sick people may actually put them in more danger," wrote the New York Times. Dr. Steven J. Davidson, the chairman of emergency medicine department at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn commented "Like the asthmatics, we’d really prefer that pregnant women would stay away from the emergency departments."


    Shared Responsibility

    Individuals have an important role in protecting themselves and their families.

    • Stay informed. Health officials will provide additional information as it becomes available.
    • Everyone should take these everyday steps to protect your health and lessen the spread of this new virus:
      • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
      • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
      • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
      • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
      • If you are sick with a flu-like illness, stay home for 7 days after your symptoms begin or until you have been symptom-free for 24 hours, whichever is longer. This is to keep from infecting others and spreading the virus further.
      • Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures.

    Vaccines for the new influenza A (H1N1)

    Is an effective vaccine against the new influenza A (H1N1) virus already available?

    No, but work is already under way to develop such a vaccine. Making a completely new influenza vaccine can take five to six months.

    What will happen if the influenza A (H1N1) virus changes in the coming months?

    There is currently no evidence that the virus has changed since it was first identified, and virus changes are difficult to predict, but laboratories worldwide are monitoring the situation very closely. Should this happen in the coming months, and if the new form of the virus is not very different from the current one, the vaccine will still be effective. If there is a significant change, the vaccine may lose efficacy, so WHO would recommend that the vaccine composition be adjusted.


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