H1N1: The Swine Flu
Breaking Down the Swine Flu
The Swine Flu mimics a seasonal flu in many ways. It is spread the same way as the seasonal flu, with person to person contact or touching an area that has been sneezed on or has had germs transferred on, these germs can stay alive for 2-8 hours on surfaces. The symptoms are often the same as well including fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Swine Flu can be treated with antiviral medications to help prevent complications. There is also a Swine Flu vaccine available for prevention purposes, for those that do not yet have the flu.
Where the Swine Flu, or H1N1 differs is in it's complications. These complications include trouble breathing. If you have difficulty breathing get medical attention immediately. Occasionally people will have respiratory symptoms independent of fever with the Swine Flu.
Infants and children under five are at higher risk for complications of the Swine Flu. Parents of infants should wash their hands very frequently. The symptoms in infants and children will be the same as those of adults. Babies can be treated at home unless they show signs of difficulty breathing, dehydration, or other complications, such as an unrelenting fever or extreme lethargy or irritability. Antivirals cannot be given to babies under one year of age.
Other people at higher than normal risk of complications include those that are pregnant, have diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and kidney disease. This is the same group of people who are at higher than normal risk of complications in the seasonal flu. Note the omission of the elderly, who are normally included in this group. That is because they are at lower risk overall of getting the Swine Flu as some people over 65 do have an antibody, however, if they do get the flu they are at risk for complications.
H1N1 has been declared a pandemic. The last Swine Flu pandemic was in 1918. During that pandemic 1/3 of the world population was infected. Between 50 and 100 million people died. So far, this flu, although widespread does not seem to be anywhere near that level of severity. Since many cases of the Swine Flu are mild and do not require medical attention it is almost certainly under reported. However, the death count should be fairly accurate, it's just over 4,700 people according to the World Health Organization, with the count of laboratory confirmed cases just shy of 400,000.
At this point the Swine Flu infection rates are still increasing in much of the Northern Hemisphere, especially North America.
In order to avoid becoming a part of this pandemic people should wash their hands frequently, try not to touch their nose and mouth during the day. Encourage children to wash their hands. Avoid touching communal surfaces such as doorknobs and tabletops, disinfect them if possible, if touching communal things is unavoidable, wash your hands afterwords.
If someone in your house does have a flu make sure to take precautions as to not spread germs and watch them closely for shortness of breath, confusion, and other symptoms to indicate that they are having a complication of the flu.
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