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Swine Flu H1N1 Influenza Primer – A Straight Forward, Non-Technical Summary

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We’ve all heard a lot about the Swine Flu (H1N1 virus) in the news lately and because of all the hype and fragmented reporting, there is still a lot of confusion.  The following is a short, easy to read information summary about the disease that’s causing quite a bit of hysteria and commotion.  The 2009 H1N1 virus is an influenza virus first identified in April 2009, and is considered highly contagious, especially in young people.  It’s devastating effects are expected to last far into 2010 and possibly become the next seriously deadly pandemic.  There has been swine flu reported in each of the U.S. states and all of it’s territories,  which amount to over 1 million cases, but the number of clinically confirmed cases are actually much lower.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently raised the threat level to Phase 6 which signifies a pandemic.   This means that the swine flu has achieve a contagious state of  “being spread easily from person to person.”  Phase 6 seems appropriate because most countries around the world have reported their own recent cases of H1N1. Swine flu has spread in an unusual fashion so far with people getting the illness during the summertime, instead of during fall and winter as we see with the usual seasonal flu.  In addition, it seems to strike  young healthy children and young adults, and there are many less cases than expected of swine flu in adults over 64.  Like the flu of past years however, H1N1 seems to spread the old fashioned way through coughing, sneezing and direct contact.  That’s why we’ve seen such spikes in populations living in close quarters, classrooms, dormitories and the like.  People with chronic disease and pregnant women seem to be at the most risk for catastrophic sickness as a result of H1N1 contraction.  The CDC is estimating that over 40% of the U.S. population could be affected by swine flu this season, and that includes health care workers.  You can see why there is such a fuss over this sickness.Symptoms of swine flu are similar to the seasonal flu:
body aches
sore throat
some people are getting diarrhea and vomiting as well
So why it so deadly?  Patients that contract H1N1 can often have severe symptoms and complications due to the virus making a well controlled health condition or disease, into something deadly and uncontrolled.  Severe asthma, respiratory distress and pneumonia are common causes of death in swine flu.A carrier of H1N1 will be contagious for a day before symptoms begin, and up to 7 days after they finally get sick.  If you get the flu, seasonal or otherwise, and if your symptoms are manageable at home, stay home and limit contact with others.  Do this while your sick, and for a week after your are feeling better with no symptoms or fever.  Hand washing and general hygiene is of utmost importance to protect yourself and your family from the flu.  This is especially true for school age children.The H1N1 flu vaccine is already being distributed.  However because it is new and in limited supply, it is being reserved for those people identified at being at higher risk.  This high risk population has been dubbed a “priority group” and consists of health care workers, pregnant women, caregivers of infants, people 6mo to 24 years old, and anyone with a chronic health condition. There have been 2 antiviral drugs in the news that are thought to be effective against the swine flu, Relenza and Tamiflu.  These medications prevent viral replication after a person has already been infected.  Unlike the vaccine, these antivirals aren’t a preventative measure.  They simply shorten the duration of the illness and must be given with in the first 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.


Written by hintonfran6

July 24, 2013 at 10:52 pm

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