Your Ad Here

Thursday, June 4, 2009

H1N1 Swine Flu 2009 Frequently Asked Questions

Thursday, June 4, 2009
With so much in the news about swine flu, also called H1N1, it's wise to know what it is, what you can expect, and how to protect yourself and your loved ones. Empowered patients can use this knowledge to reduce their fear of swine flu.

What is swine flu?

The swine flu is a strain of virus that pigs contract and transmit. The swine flu of interest in 2009 is the H1N1 strain, which can be passed from pigs to human beings. It was first identified in pigs in 1930. Now it is causing illness in humans, with the potential of reaching pandemic levels.

What does H1N1 Influenza A mean?

The official, scientific name for swine flu, its serologic classification, is H1N1 Influenza A. The H means hemagglutinin and the N means neuraminidase and the 1s refer to their antibody type. Influenza A is a genus of the Orthomyxoviridae family of viruses, and refers to the fact that the virus is first identified in an animal, usually a pig or a bird. When put together, they describe the 2009 swine flu virus.

Why is this flu different from other flus?

There are thousands of different kinds of viruses that can cause the flu. New strains develop frequently and each one is different from the one before it. The seasonal flu is actually comprised of several different strains of flu. Swine flu is a new, different strain, as described above.

What are the swine flu stages I keep hearing about?

The World Health Organization, WHO, developed a plan to respond to health emergencies, like swine flu, which have the potential to become pandemic. Each stage represents a different level of response. For example, Stage 4 means that the disease can no longer be contained inside any specific country, therefore governments must take steps to handle community spread of the disease. If we get there, Stages 5-6 will indicate the swine flu has become pandemic. You can follow WHO swine flu staging for changes and updates.

What exactly is a pandemic?

WHO defines a pandemic along those stages mentioned above. They describe the prevalence of the disease, across populations and countries. There is a difference between a pandemic and an epidemic.

I keep hearing "swine flu" and "avian flu" in the same sentence.

What's that all about?

Avian flu is another name for bird flu. This pairing is heard as "swine, avian, human" and refers to the fact that this flu strain seems to be a combination of all three.

How is the swine flu transmitted?

The swine flu is transmitted just the way any viral disease is transmitted -- person-to-person contact, by touching something someone with a virus has already touched, or from droplets in the air which come from a sneeze or a cough of a person who has the swine flu.

What are the symptoms of swine flu?

Symptoms of swine flu are the same as typical flu symptoms. Fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue are the most prevalent symptoms. Some patients report diarrhea and vomiting, too.

Do people die from swine flu?

People can die, but most do not.

Is there a swine flu vaccine like seasonal flu vaccine?

No. The CDC and WHO report there is no vaccine available for this strain of swine flu. A vaccine may be developed, but if so, it will not be available until Fall 2009.

There are many spam emails circulating that claim a vaccine is available. Since this strain, the H1N1 strain, is only weeks old, it would be impossible for a vaccine to have been developed. Any claims to the contrary would likely be counterfeit.