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Swine Flu Questions and Answers

By Dr. Bernadette Veeger, General Practitioner at Centro Mar y Salud

Published June 17, 2009

World Health Organization update on date of writing (Wednesday 17 June): The Swine Flu has now been officially reported in 76 countries worldwide, there are 35,928 cases worldwide and 163 persons have died of the virus. A further 110 people in England were confirmed with swine flu today. Together with the cases in Scotland and in Northern Ireland there have now (17 June 2009) been 1,582 cases of swine flu confirmed in the UK. In Holland 83 cases, in Germany 170, in Spain 488. In the Caribbean a cruiseship with infected crewmembers is refused to enter several harbours.

WHO has now raised the level of the swine flu alert from Phase 5 to Phase 6 Ė its highest alert level. By raising the alert level to phase 6 the WHO is indicating that "a global pandemic is under way". WHO's Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan also said that "pregnant women are at increased risk of complications". Check the 'Pregnancy and swine flu' link: , or call your doctor for more information. The official name for the Swine Flu is New Influenza A (H1N1).

I think I have the Swine flu, now what?
If you have not recently returned from Mexico or the United States or have been in close contact with someone who has the Swine flu, formally you do not have to worry.

And if I was in Mexico or the U.S. or know someone with the flu?

Then call your doctor if you have a fever (38 degrees Celsius or higher) and have respiratory complaints. Preferably donít go to the practice, it increases the risk of the spread of the disease.

Are you going to die of the Swine flu?
Recovery opportunities are good. In most patients the symptoms are no greater than an ordinary flu.

What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of the Swine flu are similar to ordinary flu. The influenza virus causes a fast acting disease of the airways, which can extract mildly, but can also become severe.
The main symptoms of the flu include: fever, chills, headache, muscle pain, fatigue and a dry cough. Most symptoms disappear between two and seven days, but cough may persist much longer. Dangerous is that also a lung inflammation may occur, or that the flu can aggravate existing symptoms. (Check for an overview and differences between a normal flu the article 'Swine Flu symptoms and differences with a normal flu' on this site.)

How am I examined?

In cooperation with the health authorities a sample is taken from mouth or nose glue. This will allow diagnosis within one day: ordinary or Swine flu.

What about the virus inhibitors?

The general protocol is that the virus inhibitor Tamiflu is prescribed by a doctor to patients and (preventive) to the inner circle around a patient. It is unwise to use virus inhibitors preventive on your own or buy them on the internet, say virologists. The medicine has side effects and too long-term preventive use loses its effect.

What if there will be a massive need of virus inhibitors? Is there enough?

Every government has taken itís precautions and has large quantities on stock. Based on expectations to prevent the spread of the virus by a global epidemic. Moreover: the inhibitors donít guarantee full protection.

Is there also a vaccine?
Yes. The first vaccines probably will be available in October. The vaccine does protect against getting the new flu.

Does everyone need to get the vaccine?

No. At first the amount of vaccine will be limited. Right now the virologists are trying to estimate which groups are most at risk - and to whom the vaccine will be administered first. In addition to doctors and other emergency services that probably will be the elderly and some groups of children. However, there are countries that order an amount to treat the whole population twice. Nevertheless, virology institutes count with a four to eight times higher mortality than in a normal flu wave.

Are children particularly vulnerable?

So far yes. Until now 60 percent of the new flu patients are between 5 and 24 years old.

Older people need not to worry?

It doesnít look like it. Only some of the American and Mexican patients are older than 52 years. Older people do seem to be better protected against the current H1N1 virus. This is probably due to a similar virus circulating in 1957, a distant descendant of the Spanish flu of 1918. In 1957 this type was expelled by a new variant, the Asian H2N2 virus. Who was born before 1957, is probably still with antibodies against the old virus that now in a new form has returned.

Keep informed about the progression of the flu. The longer we know about the flu and the virus, the more we know about its development and which persons are at risk. And when vaccines are available.

For more information please contact us.



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