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What is swine flu? By: Dr.M.Farooq MD MPH

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The H1N1 flu, often called "swine flu," isn't related to pigs. It's a new flu virus circulating among people. First seen in April 2009, the H1N1 flu virus has gone on to become a "pandemic," which means that it has been seen worldwide. What is swine flu?

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Swine Flu Virus Here is a picture of the new swine flu virus, colorized and magnified

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What are swine flu symptoms?

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Symptoms of swine flu are like regular flu symptoms and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. Those symptoms can also be caused by many other conditions, and that means that you and your doctor can't know, just based on your symptoms, if you've got swine flu. It takes a lab test to tell whether it's swine flu or some other condition. What are swine flu symptoms?

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When should I see my doctor?

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When should I see my doctor? If you only have mild flu symptoms and you're not at high risk of severe disease, you don't need medical attention unless your illness worsens. If you are at high risk (pregnant women, young children, people with chronic medical conditions, and elderly people), call or email your doctor at the first sign of flu-like symptoms

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When is swine flu an emergency?

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Children should get urgent medical attention if they have fast breathing or trouble breathing, have bluish or gray skin color, are not drinking enough fluid, are not waking up or not interacting, have severe or persistent vomiting, are so irritable that the child doesn't want to be held, have flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and a worse cough, When is swine flu an emergency?

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have fever with a rash, or have fever and then have a seizure or sudden mental or behavioral change. Adults should seek urgent medical attention if they have trouble breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting, or flu-like symptoms that improve, but then come back with worsening fever or cough. contd’

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How does swine flu spread?

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The new swine flu virus apparently spreads just like regular flu. You could pick up germs directly from an infected person, or by touching an object they recently touched, and then touching your eyes, mouth, or nose, delivering their germs for your own infection. That's why you should make a habit of washing your hands, even when you're not ill. Flu germs can start spreading up to a day before symptoms start, and for up to seven days after getting sick, according to the CDC How does swine flu spread?

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How many people have swine flu?

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That's a hard question to answer, because the figure is changing so quickly and the H1N1 virus is has spread worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) is no longer keeping count of people sickened by H1N1 swine flu, and is concentrating instead on unusual cases that may arise. The CDC is also de-emphasizing case counts. Instead, it's reporting where and when there are unusually high numbers of flu cases How many people have swine flu?

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How is swine flu treated?

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The H1N1 swine flu virus is sensitive to the antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza. But not everyone needs those drugs. Most people who have come down with swine flu have recovered without treatment. The CDC has recommended prioritizing antiviral drugs for people with more severe illness and people in high-risk groups. Health officials have asked people not to hoard Tamiflu or Relenza How is swine flu treated?

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Is there a swine flu vaccine for people?

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Yes. The vaccine has been tested in clinical trials. WebMD Senior Writer Dan DeNoon, pictured here, took part in one of those trials. The vaccine will come in a shot and in a nasal spray. The CDC has made recommendations about who should get the H1N1 vaccine. Remember, you still need to get your regular seasonal flu vaccine -- the swine flu vaccine is different Is there a swine flu vaccine for people?

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How severe is swine flu?

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How severe is swine flu? The severity of cases in the current swine flu pandemic has varied widely, from mild cases to fatalities. Most U.S. cases have been mild, but there have been a number of deaths and hundreds of hospitalizations. Flu viruses can change, and it's impossible to know whether the H1N1 swine flu virus will become more deadly. But so far, this particular virus hasn't changed much since it first appeared

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How can I prevent swine flu infection?

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The CDC recommends taking these steps: Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Or, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner. Avoid close contact with sick people. Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. Got flu symptoms? Stay home, and when you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. Afterward, throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands How can I prevent swine flu infection?

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Should I cancel my travel plans?

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Should I cancel my travel plans? Only if you're already sick. The World Health Organization and CDC currently don't recommend any travel bans or travel restrictions for healthy people. An earlier U.S. advisory against travel to Mexico has been lifted. But if you're sick, health officials want you to stay home. If you have flu-like symptoms, the CDC says you should stay home and avoid travel for seven days after you get sick or for at least 24 hours after you stop having symptoms, whichever is longer

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What else should I be doing?

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What else should I be doing? Keep informed of what's going on in your community. Your state and local health departments will have important information on how your area is handling swine flu and on the swine flu vaccine, when it becomes available. If you're a parent, you may also want to plan how you would handle your child's school being temporarily closed due to H1N1 swine flu

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Can I still eat pork?

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Can I still eat pork? Yes. You can't get swine flu by eating pork, bacon, or other foods that came from pigs

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