What is Swine Flu or H1N1?
H1N1 flu is also known as swine flu. It’s called swine flu because in the past, the people who caught it had direct contact with pigs. That changed several years ago, when a new virus emerged that spread among people who hadn’t been near pigs.
In 2009, H1N1 was spreading fast around the world, so the World Health Organization called it a pandemic. Since then, people have continued to get sick from swine flu, but not as many.
While swine flu isn’t as scary as it seemed a few years ago, it’s still important to protect yourself from getting it. Like seasonal flu, it can cause more serious health problems for some people. The best protection is to get a flu vaccine, or flu shot, every year. Swine flu is one of the viruses included in the vaccine.
Causes of Swine Flu:
The Swine flu is contagious, and it spreads in the same way as the seasonal flu. When people who have it cough or sneeze, they spray tiny drops of the virus into the air. If you come in contact with these drops or touch a surface (such as a doorknob or sink) that an infected person has recently touched, you can catch H1N1 swine flu.
Despite the name, you can’t catch swine flu from eating bacon, ham, or any other pork product.
Swine Flu Symptoms:
People who have swine flu can be contagious one day before they have any symptoms, and as many as 7 days after they get sick. Kids can be contagious for as long as 10 days.
Most symptoms are the same as seasonal flu:-
- Sore Throat
- Stuffy Or Runny Nose
- Body Aches
Like seasonal flu, swine flu can lead to more serious complications, including pneumonia and respiratory failure. And it can make conditions like diabetes or asthma worse. If you have symptoms like shortness of breath, severe vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness, or confusion, call your doctor or contact your General health Department right away.
Tests for Swine Flu:
To test for swine flu, your doctor takes a sample from your nose or throat. You may not need to be tested. The CDC says the people who need to be tested are those in the hospital or those at high risk for getting life-threatening problems from the flu, such as:
- Children under 5 years old
- People 65 or older
Children and teens (under age 18) who are getting long-term aspirin therapy, and who might be at risk for Reye’s syndrome after being infected with swine flu. Reye’s syndrome is a life-threatening illness linked to aspirin use in children.
- Pregnant women
Adults and children who have chronic lung, heart, liver, blood, nervous system, neuromuscular, or metabolic problems
Adults and children who have suppressed immune systems (including those who take medications to suppress their immune systems or who have HIV)
People in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
How Is Swine Flu Treated?
Some of the same antiviral drugs that are used to treat seasonal flu also work against H1N1 swine flu. Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) seem to work best, although some kinds of swine flu are resistant to Tamiflu.
These drugs can help you get over swine flu faster. They can also help keep it from being too severe. They work best when taken within 48 hours of the first flu symptoms, but they can help when taken later.
Antibiotics won’t help, because flu is caused by a virus, not bacteria.
Over-the-counter pain remedies and cold and flu medications can help relieve aches, pains, and fever. Don’t give aspirin to children under age 18 because of the risk for Reye’s syndrome. Check to make sure that over-the-counter cold medications do not have aspirin before giving them to children.
Vaccine for Swine Flu:
The same flu vaccine that protects against seasonal flu also protects against the H1N1 swine flu strain. You can get it as a shot or as a nasal spray. Either way, it’s “teaches” your immune system to attack the real virus.
Besides a flu shot, there are other things you can do to stay healthy:
Wash your hands throughout the day with soap and water. Sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice to make sure you’ve washed long enough. Or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Avoid people who are sick.
What is the treatment for swine flu?
The best treatment for influenza infections in humans is prevented by vaccination. Work by several laboratories has produced vaccines. The first H1N1 vaccine released in early October 2009 was a nasal spray vaccine that was approved for use in healthy individuals ages 2-49. The injectable vaccine, made from killing H1N1, became available in the second week of Oct. 2009. This vaccine was approved for use in ages 6 months to the elderly, including pregnant females. Both of these vaccines were approved by the CDC only after they had conducted clinical trials to prove that the vaccines were safe and effective. A new influenza vaccine preparation is the intradermal (trivalent) vaccine is available; it works like the shot except the administration is less painful. It is approved for ages 18-64 years.
Almost all vaccines have some side effects. Common side effects of H1N1 vaccines (alone or in combination with other flu viral strains) are typical of flu vaccines used over many years and are as follows:
Flu shot: Soreness, redness, minor swelling at the shot site, muscle aches, low-grade fever, and nausea do not usually last more than about 24 hours.
Nasal spray: runny nose, low-grade fever, vomiting, headache, wheezing, cough, and sore throat
Intradermal shot: redness, swelling, pain, headache, muscle aches, fatigue
The flu shot (vaccine) is made from killed virus particles so a person cannot get the flu from a flu shot. However, the nasal spray vaccine contains live virus that has been altered to hinder its ability to replicate in human tissue. People with a suppressed immune system should not get vaccinated with the nasal spray. Also, most vaccines that contain flu viral particles are cultivated in eggs, so individuals with an allergy to eggs should not get the vaccine unless tested and advised by their doctor that they are cleared to obtain it. Like all vaccines, rare events may occur in some rare cases (for example, swelling, weakness, or shortness of breath). If any symptoms like these developments, the person should see a physician immediately.
Two antiviral agents have been reported to help prevent or reduce the effects of swine flu. They are zanamivir (Relenza) and oseltamivir (Tamiflu), both of which are also used to prevent or reduce influenza A and B symptoms. These drugs should not be used indiscriminately, because viral resistance to them can and has occurred. Also, they are not recommended if the flu symptoms already have been present for 48 hours or more, although hospitalized patients may still be treated past the 48-hour guideline. Severe infections in some patients may require additional supportive measures such as ventilation support and treatment of other infections like pneumonia that can occur in patients with a severe flu infection. The CDC has suggested in their guidelines that pregnant females can be treated with the two antiviral agents.
On Dec. 22, 2014, the FDA approved the first new anti-influenza drug (for H1N1 and other influenza virus types) in 15 years, peramivir injection (Rapivab). It is approved for use in the following settings:
Diarrhea, skin infections, hallucinations, and/or altered behavior may occur as side effects of this drug.
Adult patients for whom therapy with an intravenous (IV) medication is clinically appropriate, based upon one or more of the following reasons:
The patient is not responding to either oral or inhaled antiviral therapy, or drug delivery by a route other than IV is not expected to be dependable or is not feasible, or the physician decides that IV therapy is appropriate due to other circumstances.
Pediatric patients for whom an intravenous medication clinical appropriate because:
The patient is not responding to either oral or inhaled antiviral therapy, or drug delivery by a route other than IV is not expected to be dependable or is not feasible.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/12/2015
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