Swine Flu Virus (H1N1) Symptoms and Prevention
The 2009 flu pandemic is a global outbreak of a new strain of influenza virus, officially named the "new H1N1," first identified in April 2009, and commonly called "Swine flu."
By: Mark Anderson
Transmission of the new strain is human-to-human, with cooked pork products safe to eat as the virus cannot be transmitted by eating foods.
The new virus is a type of swine influenza derived originally from a strain that lived in pigs. This origin gave rise to the common name of swine flu. Despite this origin, however, the current strain is transmitted between people, not from swine.
The signs of infection with swine flu are similar to other forms of influenza, and includes fever, coughing, headaches, pain in the muscles or joints, sore throat, chills, fatigue and runny nose. Diarrhea, vomiting and neurological problems have also been reported in some cases.
Certain symptoms may require emergency medical attention. In children, signs of respiratory distress, for instance, those might include blue lips and skin, dehydration, rapid breathing, excessive sleeping, seizures and significant irritability that includes a lack of desire to be held.
In adults, shortness of breath, pain in chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness or confusion may indicate the need for emergency care. In both children and adults, persistent vomiting or the return of flu-like symptoms that include a fever and cough may require medical attention.
The virus can survive on environmental surfaces and can infect a person 2 to 8 hours after being deposited on the surface.
Tap water treated by conventional disinfection processes does not likely pose a risk for transmission of influenza viruses.
Influenza infection can cause pneumonia leading to death. This is typically described as either viral pneumonia, which has a rapid onset, often within one day after infection, or bacterial pneumonia, which often begins a week after infection after symptoms begins to subside.
Viral pneumonia is sometimes attributed to 'cy-tokine storm,' in which an overly active immune response damages lungs. Reports of deaths among healthy youth during first weeks of 2009 flu pandemic were attributed to this cause.
Personal hygiene: Measures to avoid flu infection include: vaccination when available, thorough and frequent hand washing, balanced diet with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, sufficient sleep, exercise and avoiding crowds.
Airborne virus prevention
Masks may be of benefit in 'crowded settings' or for people who are in 'close contact' with infected persons, defined as 1 meter or less by the World Health Organization. In these cases, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended respirators classified as N95, but it is unknown whether they would prevent swine flu infection. According to mask manufacturer 3M, there are no "established exposure limits for biological agents" such as swine flu virus.
The UK Health Protection Agency considers facial masks unnecessary for general public.
Some airlines have modified hygiene procedures to minimise travel health risks on international flights. Asian carriers have stepped up cabin cleaning, installed State-of-the-
Hygiene practices such as covering the nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing in confined areas may be the best way to limit infection.
Try to: Co-ver your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; Wash your hands often with soap and water. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective; Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth; Try to avoid close contact with sick people; If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone.
There are a number of ways to help ease symptoms, including adequate liquid intake and rest, soup to ease congestion, and over-the-counter drugs to relieve pain. Aspirin is very effective for treating fever in adults although in children and adolescents, aspirin is not usually given due to risk of Reye's syndrome. While over-the-counter drugs relieve sym-ptoms, they do not kill the virus.
Antiviral drugs can be given to treat those who become severely ill, two of which are recommended for swine flu symptoms: Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and Zanamivir (Relenza). They work by deactivating an enzyme the virus needs to grow and spread.
Possible side effects
Both medications can cause side effects, including lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and trouble breathing.
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