H1N1 is a new influenza virus that is causing great concern among the medical community. The flu was referred to as the “swine flu” when early cases began occurring. In April 2009, the first cases were reported in the U.S. More cases have been reported in other countries including Mexico and Canada.
Originally the virus was called “swine flu” due to its similarity to previous influenza viruses that infect North American pigs. Further study proved this to be inaccurate.
The H1N1 virus is contagious and spread from human to human, not from swine to human. Typically the virus is spread by airborne droplets from the coughing and sneezing of infected people. It is unknown yet how quickly the virus is able to spread. This makes speculation difficult regarding how severe an outbreak could get in the future. Symptoms of the “swine flu” are similar to the seasonal influenza virus.
Swine Flu Symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body aches
- A significant number of people with this virus have reported diarrhea and vomiting.
- Severe illnesses and death have been associated with this virus.
Currently there is not a vaccination against the H1N1 influenza virus. Diagnosing the virus is done by collecting the medical history and symptoms of the patient. A nasal swab is done to confirm that the H1N1 virus is indeed the culprit causing the illness.
Antibiotics are ineffective against this virus. Antiviral medications are prescribed to make the symptoms less severe and help you feel better faster. Antiviral medications interrupt the virus’ ability to reproduce itself in the body. These medications are also given for prevention in individuals who have known exposure to infected patients.
Other treatment is aimed at alleviating symptoms. Over the counter medications for cough, fever and pain may be used. Get enough rest and drink plenty of fluids to keep your body from becoming dehydrated.
There are measures you can take to help protect you from becoming infected with the H1N1 virus.
Preventative measures include:
- Practice strict hand washing guidelines. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after eating, drinking, smoking or contamination of the hands. Alcohol based hand sanitizers are effective when soap and water hand washing facilities are not available.
- Avoid contact with sick people when possible.
- If you become sick, stay at home for 7 days after your symptoms appear or until you have been symptom free for 24 hours. This will aid in the fight against spreading the virus to others.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Discard the tissue in the trash.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs are spread in this manner.
- Maintain a lifestyle to keep your body healthy and able to resist infectious disease. Proper nutrition, regular exercise and enough rest are a part of maintaining your health.
If you become ill with flu like symptoms consult your medical professional for further treatment advice.