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Questions & Answers

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1. How do symptoms of swine flu differ from other types of flu? None, really, although this flu might include gastrointestinal symptoms (diarrhea and vomiting), as well as the usual respiratory symptoms. The basic symptoms for swine flu are similar to the seasonal flu we are vaccinated for each year, which may include: Fever (greater than 100°F or 37.8°C) Sore throat Cough Stuffy nose Chills Headache and body aches Fatigue

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2. If I felt flu-like, how would I know if I had swine flu? You wouldn't really, nor would your physician know for sure without a respiratory specimen taken within the first 4-5 days. The specimen would then be sent to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The cases so far in the US have been relatively mild compared to the illness described in patients in Mexico. We do not yet know why the US cases have been milder. The important point is to call your doctor if you think you have the flu. Prescription anti-viral drugs such as TamiFlu or Relenza can be called in by your doctor. Unless you are: exceptionally ill with flu-like symptoms are chronically ill immune-suppressed quite elderly or have a very young child, under age 2 It is best not to report to the hospital, clinic or doctor's office, where you could risk spreading the disease. Again, call your doctor first to get instructions as to what you need to do next.

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3. How long are people contagious? Adults are potentially contagious for the length of time one has symptoms, up to 7 days following the beginning of illness. The “shedding stage” of the virus is during the first 4-5 days of illness. Children can be considered contagious longer, up to 10 days. The initial incubation period is 24-48 hours.

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4. Is there medication for this? Yes, Tamiflu or Relenza have shown to be effective against these recently reported strains of swine flu. Altogether, there are four anti-viral drugs that we commonly use to treat various strains of flu.

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5. Can I start taking medicine for it now, just in case I get it later? That is not presently advised. Preventative medication might be advised for very special circumstances where a person had to expose themselves to potentially ill people during an epidemic (which we do not yet have here). Such people might include ER workers. An outbreak in a nursing home, for instance, might lead to protecting all the other residents with a drug like TamiFlu. For the general public, the current answer is no to prophylactic (preventative) use with anti-viral medications. Its coverage time is limited. Do not confuse over-the-counter “cold and flu” preparations for anti-flu medications that require a prescription.

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6. Are the symptoms in children different from adult symptoms? Though the basic symptoms are similar, the signs of potentially life-threatening complications differ. The CDC advises those with these symptoms to seek emergency care immediately: Emergency warning signs in children are: Fast breathing or trouble breathing Bluish skin color Not drinking enough fluids Not waking up or interacting Being very irritable Fever with a rash Emergency warning signs in adults are: Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen Sudden dizziness Confusion Severe or persistent vomiting

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7. Is there a vaccine? Not yet, but the CDC has this current strain of virus and will consider whether to add it to next year’s flu vaccine as time goes on. 8. If I took the swine flu vaccine in the swine flu scare during the 70s, would that cover me? What about this year's flu shot I just took? We don’t know yet. Previous vaccines could be expected to afford only partial, incomplete protection at best. This new strain of the swine flu virus (H1N1) actually has a mixture of swine and avian components (not to be confused with the deadly avian flu of Southeast Asia).

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9. Can I catch it from pigs? No. This strain is one that is communicable through human-to-human contact. It is a mutated form of a swine virus. 10. Can I catch it from eating pork? Absolutely not! Swine flu is not transmitted by food. It is not a so-called foodborne illness. Bacon, ham and other pork products are safe to eat, assuming they are prepared properly. An internal temperature of 160 degrees for cooked meat will kill any bacteria or virus. Swine flu is transmitted by airborne droplets from an infected person’s sneeze or cough; or from germs on hands, or germ-laden surfaces. Eating pork will not give you swine flu any more than eating chicken will give you bird flu.

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11. Can it kill me? Deaths have been reported from the Mexico City outbreak. So far the cases in the US have been mild and there have been no deaths as of this writing (Monday, April 27) We do not know all the factors geographically and demographically that may contribute to the mildness or severity of this flu.But, like seasonal flu, there is the potential for serious outcomes. 12. Why the big concern if the regular flu kills 35,000 people a year, which is why we are all encouraged to get a flu shot? This is a new flu strain that our bodies have not been exposed to before. The flu strains that the CDC creates a vaccine for each year all have the potential to cause great harm, especially in elderly, pediatric and chronically ill patients. This particular flu strain has struck seemingly healthy, young adults, with some resulting in death in Mexico. It also appears to be quite contagious. We will know more about this strain in the coming days.

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13. How is it different from avian (bird) flu? Avian flu so far has had difficulty infecting humans unless they are exposed intensely to birds, because the virus has not mutated in a way that makes it transmissible by humans to other humans. This virus has origins genetically from both pigs and birds, and the big difference from the avian flu is that this swine virus can be transmitted readily from human to human. 14. Is this just another scare that will go away like bird flu? Bird flu is a theoretical threat and will need a mutation to be able to be transmitted among humans to become a serious threat. The present "swine/avian" virus clearly has already caused a major outbreak in Mexico City and San Luis Potosi, Mexico and has spread to places in the US (California, New York, Texas, Kansas and Ohio). What is not clear yet is whether this virus will result in a so-called pandemic—worldwide spread with major outbreaks--or whether it will fizzle out. But, even if it fizzles out, there is logical concern that it might re-emerge next flu season.

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