How do I prevent and treat swine flu, and, is a pandemic imminent?

Swine flu is in the news, with documented cases of human to human transmission.

According to news reports, this outbreak has “pandemic potential,” with at least 62 people dying in Mexico, and over 1,000 cases reported in that country.

Swine flu, or Swine Influenza, is caused by the Influenza type A virus found in pigs. Until now, human infection has been uncommon, with most cases involving humans being exposed to infected pigs. Human to human transmission has previously been rare, with a potential single case in 1988.

Symptoms of swine flu are similar to those of regular influenza, and can include fever, cough, sore throat, chills, fatigue and body aches. Gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea can be present as well. The diagnosis is made by analyzing a respiratory specimen, which is generally collected within 4 to 5 days after the onset of illness.

And no, you cannot get swine flu from eating or preparing pork.

The current strain of swine flu appears to be sensitive to the newer anti-viral medications, like oseltamivir and zanamivir, but resistant to the older drugs amantadine and rimantadine. The CDC is recommending treating those suspected with swine flu with the first two drugs within two days of noticing symptoms.

Of course, common-sense infection control techniques apply. These include frequent hand washing, using a tissue to cover your nose and mouth when sneezing, avoiding close contact with those demonstrating symptoms, and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

This event has a serious probability of worsening rapidly, and considering that most of the dead were previously healthy adults between the ages fo 25 and 45, has the real potential to become a pandemic.

The CDC has a continuously updated website, which I recommend that you follow:

CDC – Swine Flu General Information
CDC – Swine Flu RSS Feed
CDC – Swine Flu Twitter updates

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  • Malorye

    Excellent post on a tricky topic Kevin. It’s interesting that none of the several cases reported in the U.S. were fatal, but so many are dying in Mexico. Do you have any thoughts on this?

  • Nomad

    if the Swine Flu is anything like the other scares and outbreaks in the US, it shouldn’t amount to much (I’m hoping anyway)

  • Girish

    The treatment with Tamiflu and Ralenza seems to work in this swine flu epidemic but prevention is better than cure and in the absence of a vaccine for immediate use there at least 10 actions that could be taken.
    1.) Knowledge is power and so stay informed as to where the flu outbreaks have taken place and avoid them like the plague.
    2.) Wear protective gear in public places especially around the sick eg. proper disposable gloves, masks and disposable gowns.
    3.) Avoid crowded places especially schools, clinics and hospitals.
    4.) Restrict travel by airplanes, cruises and public transport and avoid it if you can and wait for the flu to passover don’t offer yourself as a reservoir for the flu virus.
    5.) Don’t visit others and restrict visits from others.
    6.) Frequent and prolonged hand washing with antibacterial soap (which normally takes care of viruses too). If soap is not available use hand santizers.
    7.) Stay healthy don’t get stresses avoid immunosuppressive agents if you can.
    8.) Don’t panic or get stressed as that may reduce your immune system.
    9.) Eat lots of fruits and vegetables especially pomegranates.

    10.) Stay prepared and constatly use your common sense to avoid getting infected by this tiny rascal, the flu virus which is smaller than a bacterium and requires an electron microscope to visualize it.

  • Anonymous

    I see there are cases now in NYC, and it is reported that it is spreading from human to human now.

  • lukas

    great post kevin! here are my medical thoughts on swine flu:

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