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|09-22-2009, 05:52 AM||#1|
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Swine flu (H1N1 flu)
Swine flu (H1N1 flu) — Comprehensive overview covers swine flu symptoms, tests, treatment and prevention.
Swine flu is a respiratory infection caused by influenza A viruses. The outbreak of what is popularly called swine flu involves a new H1N1 type A influenza strain that's a genetic combination of swine, avian and human influenza viruses. It can spread from human to human.
True swine flu ordinarily causes illness in pigs. Pig-to-human transmission is unusual, and human-to-human transmission of true swine flu is also possible but infrequent.
Based on its wide spread, the World Health Organization has declared the 2009 outbreak of the new H1N1 flu a global pandemic.
The new swine flu strain is being called by various names: swine-origin influenza A, swine influenza A (H1N1), influenza A/California/H1N1, swine origin influenza virus, North American flu and influenza A (H1N1).
The best approach you can take is to avoid infection. If you develop symptoms of swine flu, seek prompt medical attention to give yourself the best chance of antiviral drugs being effective.
Swine flu symptoms in humans are similar to those of infection with other flu strains:
Swine flu symptoms develop three to five days after you're exposed to the virus and continue for about eight days, starting one day before you get sick and continuing until you've recovered.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor immediately if you develop swine flu symptoms, such as fever, cough and body aches, and you have recently traveled to an area where H1N1 swine flu has been reported. Be sure to let your doctor know when and where you traveled.
Also see your doctor if you develop what appear to be swine flu symptoms after you've been in close contact with someone who may have been exposed to H1N1 swine flu.
Doctors have rapid tests to identify the flu virus, but there is no rapid test to differentiate swine influenza A H1N1 from other influenza A subtypes.
Influenza viruses infect the cells lining your nose, throat and lungs. The virus enters your body when you inhale contaminated droplets or transfer live virus from a contaminated surface to your eyes, nose or mouth on your hand.
If you've traveled to an area where lots of people are affected by human swine flu H1N1, you may have been exposed to the virus, particularly if you spent time in large crowds.
Swine farmers and veterinarians have the highest risk of true swine flu because of their exposure to pigs.
Influenza complications include:
Worsening of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and asthma
Severe complications of human swine flu H1N1 seem to develop and progress rapidly.
Treatments and drugs
Most cases of flu, including human swine flu, need no treatment other than symptom relief. If you have a chronic respiratory disease, your doctor may prescribe additional medication to decrease inflammation, open your airways and help clear lung secretions.
Antiviral drugs can reduce the severity of symptoms. Two classes of antiviral medications are used to reduce symptoms and duration of the flu — adamantane antivirals and neuraminidase inhibitors — but flu viruses can develop resistance to them.
Human swine flu H1N1 is sensitive to oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza), both of which are neuraminidase inhibitors. It's important to start treatment as soon as possible after you become ill. These antiviral medications are most effective if treatment begins within 48 hours of developing symptoms.
Lifestyle and home remedies
If you come down with any type of flu, these measures may help ease your symptoms:
Drink plenty of liquids. Choose water, juice and warm soups to prevent dehydration. Drink enough so that your urine is clear or pale yellow.
Rest. Get more sleep to help your immune system fight infection.
Consider pain relievers. Use an over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) cautiously, as needed.
Remember, pain relievers may make you more comfortable, but they won't make your symptoms go away any faster and may have side effects. Ibuprofen may cause stomach pain, bleeding and ulcers. If taken for a long period or in higher than recommended doses, acetaminophen can be toxic to your liver.
Talk to your doctor before giving acetaminophen to children. And don't give aspirin to children or teens because of the risk of Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal disease.
These measures may help prevent flu:
Stay home if you're sick. If you do have swine flu, you can give it to others starting about 24 hours before you develop symptoms and ending about seven days later.
Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. Use soap and water, or if they're unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Flu viruses can survive for two hours or longer on surfaces, such as doorknobs and countertops.
Avoid contact. Stay away from crowds if possible.
Reduce exposure within your household. If a member of your household has swine flu, designate one other household member to be responsible for the ill person's close personal care.
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Last updated 7/31/2009 12:00:00 AM
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See this article at MayoClinic.com.
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