The swine flu epidemic is all over the news and a lot of people are worried. But before rushing out to buy a surgical mask, here are some need-to-know facts about the H1N1 virus.
Transmission of Swine Flu
Swine flu normally occurs in people who work around pigs, but the virus can be transmitted from person to person. It’s uncertain how easily the virus spreads from person to person, but the H1N1 virus is thought to be passed to others by an infected person coughing or sneezing, much like seasonal flu.
Swine Flu versus Normal Flu
Swine flu and seasonal influenza are very similar, both in symptoms and makeup. The main difference is that complications like pneumonia are more likely in swine flu. Also, less of the population is expected to be immune to the strain.
In the majority of cases of swine flu, infected people recover just fine. But as with any type of influenza, pregnant women, children under 2, and the elderly are more at risk for serious or fatal complications.
Symptoms of Swine Flu
Part of the difficulty in detecting swine flu is that symptoms are pretty much identical to other flu symptoms. They include:
- fever (above 100.4 for 3 months and under and 101.1 for everyone else)
- sore throat
- intense body aches
Treatment for the H1N1 Virus
If a person has any of the above symptoms, he or she should stay home from school or work, get adequate rest, and drink clear liquids. Body aches and pains could be eased by over-the-counter medications, if necessary. In some cases, antiviral medications like Tamiflu and Relenza (and more – found here) may be prescribed to ease flu symptoms. A person suffering from flu should call his doctor to ask how to proceed rather than showing up at the office and spreading the virus around the waiting room.
Currently, there is no vaccine for swine flu. But the FDA is working with the Department of Health and Human Services to address the H1N1 virus.
Swine Flu Prevention
Getting a yearly flu shot will not prevent the H1N1 virus, but these commonsense tips will help a person and his family to avoid it:
- wash hands often
- disinfect shared surfaces like doorknobs
- avoid sharing personal items, especially plates, cups, and utensils
- cover mouth with elbow when coughing
- stay home if feeling ill
- avoid touching mouth or eyes
Swine flu is scary, but most people don’t have to worry much about it if they follow some commonsense flu prevention steps. Symptoms are much like “regular” influenza, and the most at-risk categories are pregnant women, young children, and the elderly.