For up to date state by state information, visit the Centers for Disease Control.
The virus involved in the current outbreak of swine flu is a respiratory infection caused by a type of influenza A (H1N1). It is a disease typically found in pigs (also called swine).
Although people do not normally get the swine flu, the virus is contagious and humans can be infected. The virus is spread from person to person by coughing and sneezing. Humans are typically contagious anywhere from one day before the start of the illness to 7 days after onset. Note: Swine flu CANNOT be contracted from eating pork and pork products.
Since this is a new flu strain, it is likely there is no existing immunity to the virus. It is believed that everyone is at risk.
Swine flu symptoms are very similar to seasonal influenza and generally include fever, fatigue, lack of appetite and coughing, although some people also develop a runny nose, sore throat, vomiting or diarrhea, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
People can take action to help prevent the spread of the virus.
The CDC suggests the anti-viral medicines called Tamiflu and Relenza for the treatment and prevention of the swine flu virus. These medications work best if taken within two days of the development of symptoms. IMPORTANT: Aspirin or aspirin-containing products should not be given to anyone age 18 or younger, including confirmed or suspected cases of swine flu due to the chance of Reye syndrome. Non-steroidal medicines, like acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be used to treat the symptoms.
If you are ill, you should stay home and avoid being with others to help control spread of the disease.
You should also contact a doctor or nurse for urgent or emergency evaluation if you have:
In children, additional symptoms that may happen and need urgent care are:
Symptoms which require calling Emergency Medical Services (911) include:
No. There is no vaccine for this strain of flu at this time. People living in affected areas should take steps to prevent spreading the virus to others.
The CDC and WHO (World Health Organization) suggest that people avoid travel to Mexico at this time. If you are planning travel to Mexico, follow the suggestions on the CDC Web site to lower the chance of infection.
Antiviral medicines are available for people 1 year or older. You should ask your doctor whether you need antiviral medicines. The CDC's recommendations for treatment are as follows:
Suspected cases: "Treatment is recommended for any ill person suspected to have swine flu." Five days of medication are usually recommended if symptoms have been present for no more than two days. Since some suspected cases may turn out to have other strains of flu, a doctor may prescribe other drugs in addition to Tamiflu and Relenza.
Confirmed cases: Either Tamiflu or Relenza may be administered for five days, provided symptoms have been present for no more than two days.
Pregnant women: The safety of Tamiflu and Relenza during pregnancy has not been tested. These drugs should only be used in pregnant women if it is felt the benefit outweighs the chance of harm to the embryo or fetus.
Preventive drug treatment in people who are not ill: Effective care requires a person to take the drugs for at least seven days. Preventive treatment is recommended for:
Flu infections can lead to or occur with bacterial infections. In that case, people will likely need to also take antibiotics. A long or severe case of the flu that seems to get better, but then gets worse again, may be a sign of a bacterial infection. People with concerns about the course of their symptoms should check with their doctor.
It is known that some viruses and bacteria can live 2 hours or longer on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs, and desks.
There is extensive information on use of facemasks and respirators on the CDC Web site.
The CDC has just updated information on the home care of a person who is ill with the swine flu at home. Things to think about:
People who get a flu-like illness should stay at home for 7 days after they feel sick or 24 hours after the symptoms have gone away, whichever is longer. If a person wishes to seek doctor's care, they should call their doctor before traveling to their office. Those with severe symptoms (for example, trouble breathing) should seek immediate medical attention. If someone must leave their home, he should wear a facemask to lower the chance of spreading the virus. If a face mask is not available, they using a handkerchief to cove a cough or sneeze is advised. Of course, those in home isolation should wash their hands often or use alcohol-based hand gels. As a rule, hand washing should be performed for at least 15 to 20 seconds. If others at home are likely to be within 6 feet of the ill person, the ill person should wear a face mask. More information is available from CDC.