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Monday, May 11, 2009

H1N1 Influenza (Swine Flu)

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H1N1 Influenza (‘Swine Flu’)
What is H1N1 Flu?
H1N1 Influenza, or “swine flu”, is a highly contagious acute respiratory disease of pigs, caused by one of several swine influenza A viruses. Outbreaks in pigs occur throughout the year. Swine influenza viruses are most commonly of the H1N1 subtype, but sometimes pigs can be infected with more than one virus type at a time, which can allow the genes from these viruses to mix. This can result in an influenza virus containing genes from a number of sources, called a "reassortant" virus. This sometimes crosses the species barrier to cause disease in humans.

How is this H1N1 flu spreading?
It is most likely spreading from person to person in the same way other flu viruses spread: through infectious respiratory droplets (droplets released when a person coughs, sneezes or talks). If these get into a healthy person's nose or mouth, the person can get infected. Sometimes people get infected when they touch something with flu virus on it, then touch their mouth or nose. Flu viruses can live on shared objects (doorknobs, keyboards, counters, etc.) for up to 48 hours. They can live on clothes or materials for up to 12 hours.
What are the symptoms?
It appears that the early symptoms are similar to seasonal flu - sudden fever (over 38ºC) and cough, sore throat, headache, generalised aches and pains, shortness of breath and vomiting and diarrhoea.
How can I avoid catching influenza?
Cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with tissues or masks. Encourage others to do so.
Be aware of viruses possibly living on hard surfaces – clean them frequently with soap and water, detergent or alcohol. This will kill the H1N1 influenza virus. Wear gloves.
Clean shared items frequently e.g. door knobs, lift buttons, microwaves etc
Wash your hands with soap and water frequently and thoroughly.
Avoid close contact with people who appear unwell and who have fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and diarrhoea / vomiting.
Again, wash your hands with soap and water frequently and thoroughly
Practise good health habits including adequate sleep, eating nutritious food and keeping physically active.
What should I do if I think I, or someone in my family, possibly has H1N1 influenza?
If you or your children feel unwell, have fever, cough and/or sore throat:
Stay at home and keep away from work, school or crowds as much as possible.
Rest and take plenty of fluids.
Keep a record of your temperature twice daily (not within half an hour of eating or drinking)
Cover your mouth and nose with disposable tissues or a mask when coughing and sneezing and dispose of the used tissues properly.
Wash your hands with soap and water frequently and thoroughly, especially after coughing or sneezing.
Contact clinic if fever > 38°C, symptoms as above and the swine flu virus is in the area. Antiviral drugs are best given in the first 48 hours.
Most people will get better within 5 to 10 days. Seek further advice:
If symptoms last longer than 10 days
If illness becomes worse after 5 days
If breathing is difficult or coughing produces yellow/green phlegm or blood
If experiencing severe or persistent vomiting
If fever is high or prolonged
If you are worried
If there is an ill person at home:
Try to provide the ill person a separate section in the house. If this is not possible, keep the patient at least 1 metre in distance from others.
Cover mouth and nose when caring for the ill person. Masks can be bought commercially or made using readily available materials then disposed of or cleaned properly.
Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly after each contact with the ill person.
Keep the environment clean with readily available household cleaning agents. Wash clothes and bedding in the washing machine and clean hard services and shared items frequently.
What drugs are available for treatment?
Most of the previously reported swine influenza cases in earlier years recovered fully from the disease without requiring medical attention and without antiviral medicines. Some influenza viruses develop resistance to the antiviral medicines, limiting the effectiveness of treatment. The viruses obtained from the recent human cases with H1N1 Influenza in the United States are currently sensitive to oselatmivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza).
Is it safe to eat pork and pork products?
Yes. H1N1 influenza has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating properly handled and prepared pork or other products derived from pigs. The H1N1 influenza virus is killed by cooking temperatures of 160°F/70°C.
Is there a human vaccine to protect from swine influenza?
There are no vaccines that contain the current H1N1 Influenza virus causing illness in humans. It is not known whether current human seasonal influenza vaccines can provide any protection. Influenza viruses change very quickly. It is important to develop a vaccine against the currently circulating virus strain for it to provide maximum protection to vaccinated people. This is being done as quickly as possible.
Please keep informed about the H1N1 Influenza, the following websites are helpful:
World Health Organisation:
Canters for Disease Control and Prevention:
Australian Government Travel Bulletin – H1N1 Influenza

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