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 H3N2 influenza virus) facts
- What is the swine flu?
- How is swine flu transmitted? Is swine flu contagious?
- What is the incubation period for swine flu?
- What is the contagious period for swine flu?
- How long does the swine flu last?
- What causes swine flu?
- Why is swine flu now infecting humans?
- What are swine flu symptoms and signs?
- What tests do health care professionals use to diagnose swine flu?
- What types of health care professionals treat swine flu?
- What is the treatment for swine flu?
- What is the history of swine flu in humans?
- What are the risk factors for swine flu?
- Is it possible to prevent swine flu with a vaccine?
- Is it possible to prevent swine flu if the swine flu vaccine (or other flu strain vaccines) is not readily available?
- Are there home remedies for swine flu?
- 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)?
What tests do health care professionals use to diagnose swine flu?
Swine flu is presumptively diagnosed clinically by the patient's history of association with people known to have the disease and their symptoms listed above. Usually, a quick test (for example, nasopharyngeal swab sample) is done to see if the patient is infected with influenza A or B virus. Most of the tests can distinguish between A and B types. The test can be negative (no flu infection) or positive for type A and B. If the test is positive for type B, the flu is not likely to be swine flu. If it is positive for type A, the person could have a conventional flu strain or swine flu. However, the accuracy of these tests has been challenged, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not completed their comparative studies of these tests. However, a new test developed by the CDC and a commercial company reportedly can detect H1N1 reliably in about one hour; the test was formerly only available to the military. In 2010, the FDA approved a commercially available test that could detect H1N1 within four hours. Most of these rapid tests are based on PCR technology.
Swine flu is definitively diagnosed by identifying the particular antigens (surface proteins) associated with the virus type. In general, this test is done in a specialized laboratory and is not done by many doctors' offices or hospital laboratories. However, doctors' offices are able to send specimens to specialized laboratories if necessary. Because of the large number of novel H1N1 swine flu cases that occurred in the 2009-2010 flu season (the vast majority of flu cases [about 95%-99%] were due to novel H1N1 flu viruses), the CDC recommended only hospitalized patients' flu virus strains be sent to reference labs to be identified. H3N2v flu strains and other flu virus strains are diagnosed by similar methods.
What types of health care professionals treat swine flu?
Almost all uncomplicated patients with swine flu can be treated at home or by the patient's pediatrician, primary-care provider, or emergency-medicine doctor. For more complicated and/or severe swine flu infections, specialists such as critical-care specialists, lung specialists (pulmonologists), and infectious-disease specialists may be consulted.
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