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H1N1 Swine Flu Virus: Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment

  • Synopsis: Information including treatment prevention and symptoms of Sporadic Swine Influenza virus SIV or Swine Flu infection.

Definition: Defining the Meaning of H1N1 (Swine Flu)

H1N1 flu is also known as swine flu. It's called swine flu because in the past, the people who caught it had direct contact with pigs. That changed several years ago, when a new virus emerged that spread among people who hadn't been near pigs.

Influenza A (H1N1) virus is the subtype of influenza A virus that was the most common cause of human influenza (flu) in 2009. It is an Orthomyxovirus that contains the glycoproteins haemagglutinin and neuraminidase. For this reason, they are described as H1N1, H1N2 etc. depending on the type of H or N antigens they express. Haemagglutinin causes red blood cells to clump together and binds the virus to the infected cell. Neuraminidase are a type of glycoside hydrolase enzyme which help to move the virus particles through the infected cell and assist in budding from the host cells. Some strains of H1N1 are endemic in humans and cause a small fraction of all influenza-like illness and a small fraction of all seasonal influenza. H1N1 strains caused a small percentage of all human flu infections in 2004-2005. Other strains of H1N1 are endemic in pigs (swine influenza) and in birds (avian influenza).

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The Sporadic H1N1 Swine Influenza virus (SIV) infection that people can experience has the potential to produce a number of clinical signs and symptoms. Numbers of the persons with a history of the SIV infection have a history of a recent, physical contact with pigs before becoming ill; although close proximity without direct contact with pigs has also been reported among persons with SIV. Contact between persons that has been either limited or non-sustained between people has lead to transmission of SIV and has been documented through published literature. Additionally; there have been confirmed cases of SIV that have not occurred through exposure to pigs.

Symptoms of Swine Flu

Many times, people experience symptoms such as a cough, fever, or sore throat; although symptoms like mild respiratory illness to include nasal congestion without a fever, or occasional severe disease have also been reported. Additional symptoms that have been reported by people with swine flu include diarrhea, vomiting, headache, myalgia, dyspnea, fatigue, and chills. Some people have experienced conjunctivitis, although it is rare. More severe disease to include pneumonia and respiratory failure have also been reported in association with swine flu. A consideration in regards to SIV involves the exacerbation of other, underlying and chronic medical conditions that a person may experience, or invasive bacterial infections.

Clinical Care and Collection of Respiratory Specimens

People who either have, or are suspected or having the SIV virus, should be considered potentially contagious for a period of seven days from the date of illness onset. People who continue to exhibit symptoms of illness for a period of time that extends past seven days should be considered contagious until their symptoms have resolved. Children; younger children in particular, have the potential to remain contagious for longer periods of time. The current outbreak of SIV is affecting younger adults between the ages of twenty and forty years of age. The time a person may remain infectious various according to the strain of swine flu involved.

Defining Swine Flu Cases

A confirmed case of SIV is defined as a person who is experiencing an acute respiratory illness combined with laboratory confirmation of the SIV virus through one of the following tests:

Suspected cases of SIV are defined as persons who are experiencing respiratory illness who may have had close contact with someone with a confirmed case of SIV while that person was ill or is an acutely ill person, such as someone with an acute respiratory illness, or contact with a person who has a history of recent contact with an animal with either a confirmed or suspected SIV infection. 'Close contact,' is defined as being within a proximity of six feet of someone who has a confirmed case of SIV. An, 'Acute Respiratory Illness,' is defined as the recent onset of at least two of the following things:

Healthcare Worker Recommendations

When interviewing persons who are either suspected of having, or are confirmed with the SIV virus, it is recommended to:

When collecting respiratory specimens from an ill confirmed or suspected swine influenza A virus case, the following is recommended:

Controlling Infection

Recommended Infection Control for a non-hospitalized patient in an Emergency Room, Clinic or Home Visit:

Separate the person in a single room, if available, until the person is asymptomatic. If the ill person needs to move to another part of the house, they should wear a mask. The ill person should be encouraged to wash their hands frequently and to follow respiratory hygiene practices. Cups and other utensils that have been used by the ill person should be thoroughly washed with soap and water before they are used by other persons.

Infection Control for a hospitalized patients involves the following procedures:

Treatment With Antivirals

Treating either confirmed or suspected cases of swine flu with antivirals can include the use of either Zanamivir (Relenza) or Oseltamivir (Tamiflu). Recommendations regarding the use of antivirals can change as information on their susceptibilities becomes available.

Antiviral Treatment

Antiviral treatment for confirmed or suspected ill case of swine influenza virus infection may include either oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir, with no preference given at this time. Recommendations for use of antivirals may change as data on antiviral susceptibilities become available. It is important to initiate the treatment as soon as possible after the onset of symptoms. Confirmed and suspected cases of SIV should be monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms for a period of seven days after their last known exposure to a person with a confirmed case of SIV infection.

Dr. Christine Nevin-Woods, executive director of the Pueblo City-County Health Department, has presented a list of actions that people can take in order to stay healthy during during any outbreaks of swine flu. These actions include:

Preparedness and stockpiling may be needed if an illness is near or in your area. Social distancing is implemented to reduce the spread of the illness. Social distancing may be used to prevent large crowds of people from gathering. For example, schools and shopping centers may be closed; sporting events or other special events may be canceled in order to protect the community from spreading illness.

Flu & H1N1 Vaccine Awareness

There are two different types of flu vaccines, trivalent and quadrivalent.

Trivalent vaccines protect against 3 strains of the flu, A/H3N2, A/H1N1, and influenza B. Trivalent vaccines are available in:

  • Traditional flu shots, approved for anyone 6 months and older.
  • Intradermal shots, which use a shorter needle, approved for anyone 18-64.
  • High dose shots approved for people over 65.
  • Cell based shots created using viruses grown in animal cells and approved for anyone over 18.
  • Recombinant shots created using DNA technology, approved for people 18-49 with severe egg allergies.

Quadivalent vaccines protect against 4 strains of the flu, A/H3N2, A/H1N1, and 2 strains of influenza B. Quadrivalent vaccines are available in:

  • Traditional flu shots, approved for anyone 6 months and older.
  • Nasal spray, approved for healthy people from 2-49, except pregnant women.

Quick Facts: Swine Flu (H1N1)

Statistics: H1N1 Deaths



Latest H1N1 Swine Flu Virus Publications

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