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Swine flu no more deadly than common strain

FAQs on swine flu

POSTED: April 30, 2009 10:36 a.m.
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Dr. James Wilde

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AUGUSTA — With today’s up-to-the minute information access, you may find yourself inundated recently with swine flu alerts.
Don’t panic. So far this form of influenza, which appears to have started in Mexico, is no more dangerous to Americans than the usual forms of seasonal flu that we see annually.
Here are the most frequently asked questions about swine flu and what you need to know.

What is swine flu?
Swine flu is a form of influenza that started in pigs. Swine flu viruses have been known for decades. This one has mutated to allow it to attack humans. This is a different strain of flu from what was circulating in the United States during the recent winter season.

What are the symptoms of swine flu?
Symptoms of swine flu are basically the same as seasonal influenza symptoms and include:
● Fever
● Cough
● Sore throat
● Headache
● Muscle aches
● Fatigue
Some people also experience vomiting or diarrhea as well. The flu usually runs its course within three to five days.

What treatment is available for swine flu?
Antiviral medications such as Tamiflu and Relenza can shorten the number of days of flu symptoms by 24 to 36 hours if taken soon after symptoms appear. However, most experts do not recommend antiviral medications for otherwise healthy people who become infected with ordinary seasonal flu since most recover with little or no intervention.
The CDC currently recommends treatment with antiviral medications if swine flu is likely in a person with known flu.

When should I see my doctor?
Most people with influenza who are under age 65 without serious health problems do not need medical attention from a doctor or nurse. Most should be able to care for themselves at home with bed rest, fluids and fever-lowering medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. However, you should contact your doctor if you have:
● Fever with a cough or sore throat and you have a pre-existing serious illness.
● Flu symptoms and you are older than 65.
● Flu that does not improve after 5 days.
● Flu accompanied by difficulty breathing or continued dizziness while standing.

What about antibiotics? Won’t they help?
Antibiotics are for bacterial illnesses, but are useless against viruses. Influenza is a virus, so antibiotics are not typically prescribed for simple flu. However if you doctor believes you have a complication of the flu such as pneumonia caused by bacteria that are infecting on top of the flu virus, then antibiotics may be necessary.

Is there swine flu in my area?
Physicians at the MCGHealth Medical Center and other medical facilities in Georgia and around the nation are monitoring for flu activity and will report any findings to the appropriate public health authorities.
If swine flu is detected in your area, you will be notified through public health announcements in your local media.

What can be done to prevent the spread of this virus?

Influenza is spread from person to person. Like most viruses, the less contact you have with others who are infected or who have been exposed, the less likely that you will be exposed to the virus. Other precautions to take include:
1. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands.
2. Wash hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleanser.
3. Do not attend school or work if you have a respiratory illness with fever.
4. Infected people should stay home and avoid public places except to see a doctor.

Where can I get more information about swine or seasonal flu?

The Centers for Disease Control maintains information on influenza on its web site at cdc.gov/flu. Click on Swine Influenza under “What’s New and Updated.” The CDC site is updated daily.

MCG Health (d/b/a MCGHealth) is a not-for-profit corporation operating the MCGHealth Medical Center, MCGHealth Children’s Medical Center, the Georgia Radiation Therapy Center, and related outpatient facilities and services throughout the state.  For more information, please visit mcghealth.org.


Wilde is an emergency physician in the MCGHealth Children’s Medical Center, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the Medical College of Georgia, a member of the Georgia Pandemic Flu Committee and the MCG Pandemic Flu Committee and serves as the state medical director for Georgia United Against Antibiotic Resistant Disease.
 

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