Swine Flu: What you should know about H1N1 Influenza A

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Swine Flu (H1N1), influenza A, is currently crossing the globe and more and more cases are being confirmed in the United States. The CDC reports the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the worldwide level of pandemic alert to Phase 6.

  • Phase 1-3 Predominantly animal infections; fews human infections
  • Phase 4 indicates human-to-human spread of the virus
  • Phase 5 rating indicates human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one region
  • Phase 6 rating indicates a global pandemic with widespread outbreaks
    The current WHO phase of pandemic alert is 6.
    Here are some interesting facts you should know:

  • You cannot get Swine Flu (H1N1) from eating pork .
  • Public health officials look at trends more than they look at numbers of people affected.
  • A new report released by the CDC suggests that the new flu originated from some older swine viruses- one of them a combination of pig, bird and human strains-that had mixed genes in a new way. This suggests that this new virus might have been infecting pigs for longer than suspected (at least a decade) despite the fact that the pigs were not sick.
  • According to WHO definitions of phases – the virus has caused sustained community level outbreaks in at least two countries in one WHO region. At phase 5 a pandemic is considered imminent.
  • What is sustained human to human transmission?This occurs when three generations are involved – i.e. the virus has passed from person A to person B and then to person C.
  • The difference between a probable case and a confirmed case is the probable case is one that shows the symptoms of influenza such as cough, fever, headache, chills and fatigue and either tests positive for type A influenza or is considered linked to another probable or confirmed case.
  • A confirmed case is one which tests positive in a laboratory for the influenza A(H1N1) virus.
  • At what point does WHO consider a pandemic to have started?Phase 6, as defined by the WHO pandemic preparedness guidelines. However, during both phase 5 and phase 6, national and local actions to respond to the outbreak shift from preparedness to response at a global level. The goal of recommended actions during these phases is to reduce the impact of the pandemic on society.
  • This is still the flu season, therefore, it is not unusual for people to getting the flu.
  • Don’t stock up on Tamoxiflu or Relenza. This can create a shortage of the drug. You may not even need it. Besides, it doesn’t erase the Swine Flu, only lessons symptoms.
  • There are many side effects of Tamoxiflu that mimic the very same symptoms of the Swine Flu (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, fatigue, cough). More serious symptoms include convulsions, delirium or delusions and 14 deaths of children/teens which led Japan to ban Tamiflu for children in 2007.
  • Viruses often mutate. The drug of choice today may not be the drug prescribed tomorrow.
  • Incubation period for the Swine Flu is 1-7 days.
  • The Swine Flu spreads from person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of people infected with the influenza virus.
  • A vaccine usually takes 4-6 months to develop and check it’s safety.
  • There were side effects from the last vaccine developed for the Swine Flu in 1976. People got Guillian-Barré Syndrome(a paralyzing neuromuscular disorder) and the complications from that resulted in deaths.
  • There were more deaths from the Swine Flu vaccine than deaths from Swine Flu in the 1976 outbreak.
  • See your doctor or health care provider if you have: a respiratory illness with a fever >100° F and cough or sore throat, particularly if you..
    • Have traveled to Mexico, where human cases of swind influenza A (H1N1) have been identified
    • have been in contact with ill persons from Mexico in the 7 days prior to their illness onset
    • who have traveled to, or had contact with ill persons, in designated areas of the United States where community transmission of the swine flu strain has been recognized (eg, San Diego and Imperial Counties, California; Guadalupe County, Texas; the St. Francis Preperatory High School in New York City)
  • Several countries may have instituted travel bans. If you are traveling abroad or to another country check to see if they are quarantining air travelers that present symptoms of the swine flu such as:
    • fever over 100° F
    • coughing
    • runny nose and/or sore throat
    • joint aches
    • severe headaches and/or diarrhea
    • lethargy
    • lack of appetite
  • Pandemic: a global disease outbreak
  • Endemic: prevalent in or peculiar to a particular locality, region or people
  • Epidemic: affecting a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community or region at the same time.
  • You can get the latest numbers and follow the Swine Flu Tracker of all the cases on Google.

    Coming up next: How to protect yourself from getting sick

    Donna Marie Laino, RN

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