Swine flu treatment

I have no doubt that you’ve heard about the “swine flu” pandemic. When it hit the United States in April of 2009, a panic arose. At first, people thought that it was much worse than the typical seasonal flu, when in fact, it came at us unexpectedly and we just didn’t have the vaccines to prevent it. Finally, when the vaccine eventually came out in 2009, there was some relief. At first the supplies were limited for quite some time. To ration the supply “fairly” it was recommended by the Centers for Disease Control that those at higher risk for catching the new influenza strain should have the vaccine with top priority, including pregnant women, those who care for infants under 6 months of age, healthcare professionals, anyone from 6 months to 24 years of age, and those above the age of 25 with certain medical conditions. Once the supply of the vaccine had time to build, it was offered to almost everyone. So what happens if you didn’t get the vaccine or the vaccine didn’t work for you, and you get the swine flu? Let’s take a look at this new influenza and what to do if you catch it.

What is it?
Also known as the H1N1 virus, the swine flu causes illness in people. When this disease was originally discovered it was given the name “swine flu” because it came to humans from pigs. It contains genes from swine, bird, and human viruses. This bout of swine flu is very different than any seen before, because it has mutated enough to be able to spread from human to human, even if no contact with pigs is made; therefore, it is a human flu virus. Also because this strain has never been seen before, hardly anyone had natural immunity to it when the outbreak started.

What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of the H1N1 influenza are similar to other flu symptoms. They include fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue, runny nose, body aches, headache, and chills; there have been some cases of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Since many of these symptoms are associated with other conditions, your doctor would probably need to do a rapid test to determine if it was or is indeed swine flu.

Treatment for the Swine Flu
Treating the swine flu can be done in a couple of different ways: through antiviral drugs and through what is known as supportive care.

Antiviral Drugs—these are extremely important for high risk individuals who have acquired the H1N1 influenza or those who cannot rid their bodies of the illness and it appears to only be getting worse.

  • It is most effective when given before or at 48 hours of the illness’ onset; even if the influenza has not be confirmed in an individual, it is still ok to be treated with the antiviral drug.
  • These antiviral treatments are classified as neuraminidase-inhibitors, under the name of oseltamavir (Tamiflu) or zanamavir (Relenza). Choosing between these two antivirals is up to the discretion of the doctor.
    • Tamiflu—taken orally for twice a day for 5 days. Side effects may include: nausea, vomiting, and mood changes.
    • Relenza—this is an inhaled medication taken twice a day for 5 days. It can cause airways to spasm, so it isn’t recommended for people with lung cancer or asthma.
  • Some doctors may choose to treat even moderately ill people with the antiviral drug, and this has been shown to be effective.
  • Both of these medications only shorten the duration of the illness, but do not take effect immediately.
  • Supportive Care—taking care of your body with rest and replenishment of fluids.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Rest frequently. It’s okay to take naps throughout the day, especially since flu symptoms can get worse at nighttime, interfering with a good night’s sleep.
  • Stay at home. This will prevent you from spreading the infection to other people, and help to keep you well rested.


Last updated on Jun 30th, 2010 and filed under Other Conditions & Diseases. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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