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?
- What are the risk factors for swine flu?
- Can swine flu be prevented with a vaccine?
- Can swine flu be prevented if the a flu vaccine (or other flu strain vaccine) 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?
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What treatment is available for swine flu?
The best treatment for influenza infections in humans is prevention by vaccination. Work by several laboratories has recently produced vaccines. The first vaccine released in early October 2009 was a nasal spray vaccine that was approved for use in healthy individuals ages 2 through 49. The injectable vaccine, made from killed H1N1, became available in the second week of October 2009. This vaccine was approved for use in ages 6 months to the elderly, including pregnant females. Both of these vaccines were approved by the CDC only after they had conducted clinical trials to prove that the vaccines were safe and effective.
Almost all vaccines have some side effects. Common side effects of H1N1 vaccines (alone or in combination with other flu viral strains) are typical of flu vaccines used over many years and are as follows:
- Flu shot: Soreness, redness, minor swelling at the shot site, muscle aches, low-grade fever, and nausea do not usually last more than about 24 hours.
- Nasal spray: runny nose, low-grade fever, vomiting, headache, wheezing, cough, and sore throat
The flu shot (vaccine) is made from killed virus particles so a person cannot get the flu from a flu shot. However, the nasal spray vaccine contains live virus that have been altered to hinder its ability to replicate in human tissue. People with a suppressed immune system should not get vaccinated with the nasal spray. Also, most vaccines that contain flu viral particles are cultivated in eggs, so individuals with an allergy to eggs should not get the vaccine unless tested and advised by their doctor that they are cleared to obtain it. Like all vaccines, rare events may occur in some rare cases (for example, swelling, weakness, or shortness of breath). If any symptoms like these develop, the person should see a physician immediately.
Two antiviral agents have been reported to help prevent or reduce the effects of swine flu. They are zanamivir (Relenza) and oseltamivir (Tamiflu), both of which are also used to prevent or reduce influenza A and B symptoms. These drugs should not be used indiscriminately, because viral resistance to them can and has occurred. Also, they are not recommended if the flu symptoms already have been present for 48 hours or more, although hospitalized patients may still be treated past the 48-hour guideline. Severe infections in some patients may require additional supportive measures such as ventilation support and treatment of other infections like pneumonia that can occur in patients with a severe flu infection. The CDC has suggested in their interim guidelines that pregnant females can be treated with the two antiviral agents.
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