Monday, July 27, 2009

Influenza A (H1N1) Swine Flu

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of the new Influenza A (H1N1) virus are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu and can include:

* fever (a temperature ≥38 °C)
* cough
* sore throat
* runny or stuffy nose
* body aches
* headache
* chills
* fatigue.

Some people also experience diarrhoea and vomiting.

Also, like seasonal flu:

* the worst symptoms usually last about five days, but coughing can last up to two to three weeks
* some very young children, people with some long-term medical conditions, pregnant women, and older people, can get very sick
* in rare instances severe illness and death can occur.

The World Health Organization says it will be difficult to tell the difference between seasonal flu and non-seasonal influenza A (H1N1). Most people will experience a mild to moderate illness and will be able to manage the symptoms at home.

How does it spread?

The new influenza A (H1N1) virus spreads from person-to-person, in the same way that seasonal influenza viruses spread.

The main form of transmission is through the coughs or sneezes of an infected person. Infected droplets are released into the air and breathed in by others. However, these droplets do not remain in the air long and generally only affect people within two metres.

It is also possible to get influenza by touching contaminated surfaces, and then touching your nose, mouth or eyes.

The new influenza A (H1N1) virus is not spread through eating properly-cooked pork or handling pork products. Water chlorination also makes it very unlikely that people will get this virus from drinking water or swimming in chlorinated pools.

How infectious is it?

Because this virus is new, people have no immunity to it so it will spread more quickly and widely than the seasonal flu. The pandemic situation could mean lots of people become sick at the same time and this could have a big impact on our day-to-day lives, and place considerable pressure on the health services.

Experts aren’t yet sure how long people who have the new Influenza A (H1N1) virus are infectious and able to pass the virus to others. It appears they could be infectious from a day before they experience symptoms until about seven days after they first experience them.

Children, especially younger children, may be infectious for longer periods. However early use of antiviral medicines, such as Tamiflu, can reduce this infectious period.

Protecting and caring for yourself and others

Many people will be sick during a flu pandemic, and it may be difficult to get medical or nursing care. You must be prepared to take care of yourself and others at home.

View more information on how to protect and care for yourself and others in this section:

* Protecting yourself and others
* What to do if you have the flu
* Caring for someone with the flu
* Treatment
* When to seek medical advice
* What happens in the 'Manage it' phase and what does that mean for me?

Be prepared

Many people will be sick during a flu pandemic, and it may be difficult to get medical or nursing care. You must be prepared to take care of yourself and others at home.

So you don’t need to make trips out in public while you are sick, have at least a week's supply of:

* alcohol-based hand rubs
* paracetamol or ibuprofen
* tissues
* food
* medical supplies.

Make sure you have contact details for friends/family/neighbours easily available so that you can call them if you need help.

Think about:

* who will look after your extended family if they become sick
* organizing child care if schools and day care facilities close
* whether or not you can work from home
* who could deliver groceries or meals to sick family members if they need them.

For further information, visit

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