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Swine Flu update

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

Published August 21, 2009

Swine flu reaching pandemic proportions forces us to discuss the subject once more. Swine Flu is not extremely dangerous but you should be prepared and be able to recognize the symptoms. Hereís the update.


In our July article (based on data from the World Health Organization of June 17th) we were speaking about 35,928 cases, in 76 countries worldwide and 163 persons having died of the virus. On data of writing (18 August) the European Centre for Disease Prevention and control (ECDC) and WHO reports 237.129 cases in over 160 countries worldwide and 2.144 persons having died of the virus. Europe reports over 39.427 cases and 63 deaths. Given thatcountries are no longer required tot test and report individual cases, the number of cases reported actually underestimates the real number of cases.
Great Britain reports 12.903 cases and 44 people died of the virus, Spain 1.538 cases and 12 persons died. So these 2 countries take around 89% of the casualties in total Europe.

Increased risk for pregnant women

Research conducted in the USA has drawn attention to an increased risk of severe or fatal illness in pregnant women when infected with the H1N1 pandemic virus. Several other countries have similarly reported an increased risk in pregnant women, particularly during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. An increased risk of fetal death or spontaneous abortions in infected women has also been reported.
While pregnant women are also at increased risk during epidemics of seasonal influenza, the risk takes on added importance in the current pandemic, which continues to affect a younger age group than that seen during seasonal epidemics. WHO strongly recommends that, in areas where infection with the H1N1 virus is widespread, pregnant women, and the clinicians treating them, be alert to symptoms of influenza-like illness. When in doubt; call your doctor!

Danger signs in all patients

Worldwide, the majority of patients infected with the pandemic virus continue to experience mild symptoms and recover fully within a week, even in the absence of any medical treatment. Monitoring of viruses from multiple outbreaks has detected no evidence of change in the ability of the virus to spread or to cause severe illness.

In addition to the enhanced risk documented in pregnant women, groups at increased risk of severe or fatal illness include people with underlying medical conditions, most notably chronic lung disease (including asthma), cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and immunosuppression. Some preliminary studies suggest that obesity, and especially extreme obesity, may be a risk factor for more severe disease.

Clinicians, patients, and those providing home-based care need to be alert to danger signs that can signal progression to more severe disease. As progression can be very rapid, medical attention should be sought when any of the following danger signs appear in a person with confirmed or suspected H1N1 (Swine Flu) infection:

  • Shortness of breath, either during physical activity or while resting 
  • Difficulty in breathing 
  • Turning blue 
  • Bloody or coloured sputum 
  • Chest pain 
  • Altered mental status 
  • High fever that persists beyond 3 days 
  • Low blood pressure

In children, danger signs include fast or difficult breathing, lack of alertness, difficulty in waking up, and little or no desire to play.

Click here for an overview of the symptoms of Swine Flu, compared with those of the normal flu.

What do I do if I think I have the Swine Flu?

When the symptoms of your illness match with the symptoms of Swine Flu, donít hesitate and call a doctor. Also if you are not completely sure. Itís better not to go to consultation hours of your GP or walk in in the ambulatorio of the Securidad Social, because of the risk of spreading the virus and infecting others. Health services have prepared a protocol to treat people with Swine Flu, your GP will know everything about it.

Catch it, Bin it, Kill it
It is very important that people continue to do everything they can to stop the virus from spreading. The most important way to stop it spreading is to have good respiratory hygiene: Catch it; Sneeze and cough into a tissue
Bin it; Place the tissue quickly in a bin
Kill it; Wash your hands and surfaces regularly to kill the virus.

How about the vaccine?

The first vaccines probably will be available at the end of September. At first the amount of vaccine will be limited and will only be administered to the higher risks groups. In addition to doctors and other emergency services that probably will be pregnant women, the elderly and some groups of children.
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.

Sources of this article: WHO, NHS, ECDC, Spanish Ministry of Health.

For more information please contact us.

This article is also published in the September 2009 issue of the Ladiesprimera magazine.


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