Thursday, December 31, 2009

Influenza A (H1N1): Facts That You Need to Know

On October 25, 2009 U.S. President Barack Obama officially declared H1N1 a national emergency. There is much confusion about this virus. This article sorts out some of the more common issues about this pandemic influenza H1N1, but is not all-inclusive. References are noted where more information can be obtained.

What is Swine Influenza?
Swine Influenza is a viral infection of the respiratory tract much like regular human influenza. The Swine influenza currently is an Influenza A (H1N1) virus.

Influenza A (H1N1) virus is a strain or a subtype of influenza A virus and the most common cause of influenza (Flu) in humans

On November 29, 2009 worldwide update by the U N’s World Health Organization (WHO) states that “207 countries and overseas territories/communities have reported laboratory confirmed cases of pandemic influenza H1N1 2009, including at least 8,768 deaths.”

Who can get Swine Influenza?
Swine influenza affects all age groups like human influenza. It is believed that very young people, pregnant women and people with chronic diseases are more prone to getting it. Older people over mid-sixties may not be as prone.

What are the symptoms?
Symptoms start suddenly with fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting.

How is Swine Influenza spread?
The Swine influenza virus is spread from person to person by droplets from the nose, throat and mouth through sneezing, coughing and speaking.

You cannot become infected by eating pork or pork products.

How long is a person contagious?
Usually one day prior to onset of symptoms to seven or more days after becoming ill.

Are there complications?
Complications include: pneumonia, respiratory failure and death.

A study conducted in coordination with the University of Michigan Health Service is scheduled for publication in the December 2009 American Journal of Roentgenology (Radiology, the science of radiation) warning that H1N1 flu can cause pulmonary embolism surmised as a leading cause of death in this current pandemic (blockage of the main artery of the lung or one of its branches by something that has travelled from someplace else in the body).

Is there a treatment for Swine Influenza?
Yes, your health care provider will determine if testing or treatment is needed.

Children and teens with influenza should not be given aspirin or aspirin products because of the risk of developing Reye’s syndrome. (Reye’s syndrome is a condition that affects the nerves, and sometimes develops in children and teenagers who are recovering from the flu. The syndrome often begins in young people after they take aspirin to get rid of fever or pain. Reye’s syndrome begins with nausea and vomiting, and can lead to mental symptoms such as confusion or delirium.

How can Swine Influenza be prevented?
Avoid contact with infected or sick people whenever possible. Cough or sneeze into tissues and throw them away immediately. Wash hands after using a tissue for coughing or sneezing. Alcohol based hand cleaners are also effective.

Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are spread this way. If you are sick, stay home and avoid contact with others.

The regular flu vaccine with which many are vaccinated seasonally will not provide protection against the swine flu virus.

A vaccine is now available to help prevent infections from the H1N1 virus, but there are many pro and con arguments about its safety, which I will not go into here.

Information about vaccination with the H1N1 influenza virus vaccine is available at

Where can I get more information?
To get the most up-to-date and complete information visit this site:

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