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Swine Flu - Influenza 

Introduction

The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is carefully monitoring the cases of swine flu in America.  The CDC states that while there is no need to panic, you should educate yourself about the swine flu and take precautions.  The swine flu is a virus that originated in pigs, but spread to humans.  The swine flu causes symptoms that are similar to the human seasonal flu.  If you suspect that you have the swine flu, stay at home and contact your doctor.  You can help prevent the spread of the swine flu by washing your hands frequently and avoiding touching your face.

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Anatomy
The swine flu is contagious; meaning it can pass easily from one person to another.  The swine flu develops when the swine flu virus comes in contact with the lining inside of the nose.  The swine flu virus multiplies in the warm moist environment. 

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Causes

A type of flu that affects pigs causes the swine flu.  On occasion, the swine flu can develop in humans.  The swine flu spreads in the same manner as the human seasonal flu. The swine flu is contagious from one human to another.  It is spread through droplets in the air that are spread by coughing or sneezing.  You can catch the swine flu by breathing in the virus.  The swine flu is transmitted by hand to hand contact or by touching a surface that the virus is on and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Additionally, people in close contact with pigs that are infected with the swine flu are at risk for contracting the swine flu.

A person with the swine flu is contagious to others from one day before developing swine flu symptoms to seven days after the symptoms start.  In other words, a person may spread the swine flu before realizing he or she is sick.  Children, especially young children, may be contagious for longer periods of time (10 days or longer).

The human flu vaccine (seasonal flu vaccine) is not effective for preventing the swine flu.  There currently is no vaccine available to prevent the swine flu.  You cannot get the swine flu from eating pork.

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Symptoms

The swine flu can cause:
• High fever
• Cough
• Sore throat
• Body aches
• Chills
• Fatigue (feeling tired)
• Vomiting, in some cases
• Diarrhea, in some cases

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Diagnosis

You should contact your doctor if you suspect that you have the swine flu.  You should contact your doctor if you have been in close contact with a person that has the swine flu.  Your doctor will decide if you should be tested for the swine flu.  The swine flu is diagnosed by a laboratory test. 

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Treatment

The swine flu is treated with antiviral prescription medications.  The prescription medications are oseltamivir and zanamivir.  These antiviral medications can make your symptoms milder and help you recover faster.  By doing so, the risk for serious complications may be decreased.  Oseltamivir and zanamivir work best if received within the first 48 hours of illness.

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Prevention

You can help prevent the swine flu vaccine by:

• Washing your hands frequently.  Wash your hands with soap and water for 15-20 seconds.
• Use antibacterial gels to clean your hands frequently.
• Sneeze or cough into a tisue and put the tissue in a waste paper basket when you are done.
• Wash your hands after you sneeze or cough.
• Wash your hands after touching common objects in your environment, such as doorknobs or desks.
• Do not touch your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth.
• Avoid being around people that are sick.
• Stay home if you feel sick.
• Contact your doctor if you suspect you have the swine flu.
• Contact your doctor if you have been in contact with a person that has the swine flu.
• Keep yourself healthy.  Eat a well-balanced diet, exercise regularly, manage stress, drink plenty of fluids, and get enough sleep.

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Am I at Risk

You may be at risk for the swine flu if:

  • You have been in contact with another person that has the swine flu.
  • If you are in close contact with pigs that have the swine flu.

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Complications

The swine flu can make other medical conditions worse.  In swine flu cases of past years, particular strains of the swine flu have contributed to pneumonia, respiratory failure, and death.  Like strains of the human flu, some strains of the swine flu may have more severe health complications than others.

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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.