Swine Flu (cont.)
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Swine flu (H1N1 and H3N2v influenza virus) facts
- What is the swine flu?
- What causes swine flu?
- Why is swine flu now infecting humans?
- What are the symptoms of swine flu?
- How is swine flu diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for swine flu?
- What is the history of swine flu in humans?
- What are the risk factors for swine flu?
- Can swine flu be prevented with a vaccine?
- Can swine flu be prevented if the swine flu vaccine (or other flu strain vaccines) is not readily available?
- Was swine flu (H1N1) a cause of an epidemic or pandemic in the 2009-2010 flu season?
- What is the prognosis (outlook) and complications for patients who get swine flu?
- Where can I find more information about swine flu (H1N1 and H3N2v)?
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What are the symptoms of swine flu?
Symptoms of swine flu are similar to most influenza infections: fever (100 F or greater), cough, nasal secretions, fatigue, and headache, with fatigue being reported in most infected individuals. Some patients also get nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In Mexico, many of the initial patients infected with H1N1 influenza were young adults, which made some investigators speculate that a strong immune response, as seen in young people, may cause some collateral tissue damage.
Some patients develop severe respiratory symptoms and need respiratory support (such as a ventilator to breathe for the patient). Patients can get pneumonia (bacterial secondary infection) if the viral infection persists, and some can develop seizures. Death often occurs from secondary bacterial infection of the lungs; appropriate antibiotics need to be used in these patients. The usual mortality (death) rate for typical influenza A is about 0.1%, while the 1918 "Spanish flu" epidemic had an estimated mortality rate ranging from 2%-20%. Swine (H1N1) flu in Mexico had about 160 deaths and about 2,500 confirmed cases, which would correspond to a mortality rate of about 6%, but these initial data were revised and the mortality rate worldwide was estimated to be much lower. Fortunately, the mortality rate as of H1N1 remained low and similar to that of the conventional flu (average conventional flu mortality rate is about 36,000 per year; projected H1N1 flu mortality rate was 90,000 per year in the U.S. as determined by the president's advisory committee, but it never approached that high number).
Fortunately, although H1N1 developed into a pandemic (worldwide) flu strain, the mortality rate in the U.S. and many other countries only approximated the usual numbers of flu deaths worldwide. Speculation about why the mortality rate remained much lower than predicted includes increased public awareness and action that produced an increase in hygiene (especially hand washing), a fairly rapid development of a new vaccine, and patient self-isolation if symptoms developed. Research is ongoing to develop data-based answers to such questions.
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