SciTech

Health Talk: Swine flu

With the recent swine flu scare, we decided to focus this edition of Health Talk on the disease. Below you will find general information regarding the disease, tips to prevent it from spreading, and even first-hand experiences from others that have had the flu.

What is the swine flu?
H1N1 is a new strain of influenza virus currently infecting people worldwide. It was detected in the United States in April of this year and has been classified a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Since the end of July, case counting has been discontinued due to inaccurate counting.

H1N1 has acquired the “swine flu” moniker because of two genetic similarities to influenza viruses that occur normally in North American pigs. H1N1 also shares genes from viruses circulating among both birds and humans — this is known as a quadruple reassortant virus.

Who is susceptible?
Epidemiological data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that susceptibility to the H1N1 virus is irregularly skewed to people younger than 25, rather than the usual high risk for those 65 years and older. This is most likely indicative of a pre-existing immunity to this strain of influenza. There is still a higher rate of seniors becoming hospitalized, though, due to flu-related complications that are not as serious among younger patients.

How does H1N1 spread?
It spreads in the same way as the seasonal flu — from person to person through coughing or sneezing by those infected. There is also the risk of becoming infected by touching an object or surface that has been exposed to the virus.

What are the symptoms?
They include fever, cough, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue.
When I was infected, the first three days were the worst with a temperature above 101 degrees, a bad cough, and a head that felt like it was twice its normal size. I slept 12 to 14 hours a day and ended up feeling better by the fifth and sixth day.
People infected with H1N1 flu are able to infect others from a day before symptoms show up to five to seven days after. You should stay home for at least seven days or until 24 hours after symptoms end.

If my roommate is infected, can I still go to class?
As long as you continue to practice precautionary behavior like washing your hands and keeping shared surfaces sanitized while monitoring your own health for flu symptoms, it should be fine to continue your daily activities.

Can I get infected with H1N1 from eating pork?
No.

Are there vaccines available to prevent H1N1?
Flu vaccine production and testing is ongoing with five manufacturers. The FDA expects to have around 50 million doses available by mid-October, continuing production to supply another 150 million doses by the end of this year. Vaccination will most likely be a two-shot process, separated by a two-to-four-week wait between inoculations.

Remember three rules of staying healthy:
Wash your hands, cover your mouth and nose when you cough, and stay home if you’re sick.