Navigation Links
Swine Flu: A Primer

FRIDAY, May 1 (HealthDay News) -- Dr. Charles Ericsson, head of clinical infectious disease at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, spoke to HealthDay about what scientists know right now about the swine flu outbreak:

What exactly is the swine flu?

"Swine influenza is a known cause of flu in pigs. But once in a while, through mutations, it can acquire the ability to attack humans," Ericsson explained. Formally named swine influenza A H1N1, this strain "appears to have components from human, pig and bird viruses," he said.

How easy it is to become infected?

That's not yet entirely clear. "We know it's passed on through the 'droplet route,' which means that if I'm within three to six feet of somebody and they cough or sneeze I might get some of that spray inhaled through my eyes or nose," he said. "If that happens, and if they have the flu, you can easily get it." It's less clear if you could be infected simply by being in a room where exhaled droplets might still be lingering. As with other flu viruses, people can sometimes become infected by touching something with a virus on it -- a desktop, a doorknob -- then touching their eyes, nose or mouth, according to experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You cannot get swine flu from eating pork.

What can I do to protect myself?

"Cough etiquette is the critical thing. You should be cautious about your own behavior -- covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze in public," Ericsson said. Avoiding crowds, and avoiding folks who are sick or don't use "cough etiquette" is also important, experts say, as is avoiding handshakes, kissing, or touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Also very effective: frequent hand washing, using either soap and water or alcohol-based hand cleaners. The effectiveness of face masks is still "controversial," Ericsson said. If a true pandemic emerges, then mask wearing "might not be a bad idea" in crowded environments, he said. "And if you are ill you should certainly stay home from work" to avoid spreading the illness, he added.

What are the symptoms of infection?

"Basic flu-like symptoms: a high fever, a bothersome dry cough, maybe a little gastrointestinal upset like belly pains or diarrhea, and general malaise," Ericsson said. "Basically you will feel just plain rotten." Flu symptoms typically appear within hours, experts say, whereas common cold symptoms emerge more gradually, are milder, and only rarely include high fever. "Typically, most people with any significant flu are going to have a fever of at least 101," Ericsson said.

Why does swine flu appear to be more deadly in Mexico than in the United States?

"I suspect we just haven't seen enough cases to see its full potential [in the U.S.] yet, and we'll just have to wait and see," Ericsson said. On the other hand, "Maybe it's mutated since Mexico, and that is why it's appeared to be less dangerous among the cases we've seen so far in the U.S," he said.

Is there an effective, available vaccine?

The answer is no, not yet, although scientists at the CDC and elsewhere are beginning the vaccine process - which typically takes months. "The current flu shot isn't going to do anything with [swine flu], because the virus is very capable of changing its clothes and wrapping itself up differently to evade our body's defenses," Ericsson noted.

If I get infected, is there an effective treatment?

Yes, according to Ericsson. The swine flu so far seems to be susceptible to two prescription drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza, which can shorten the course of the illness. Antibiotics, which only fight bacteria, are useless against the flu virus.

Is there enough Tamiflu and Relenza to cover all Americans?

"We've got stockpiles," Ericsson said, "but if we ever get into a real pandemic there is a risk that these not unlimited resources may get used up." That could mean prioritizing certain high-risk or otherwise important groups. And Ericsson stressed these two drugs won't do much to help people who become infected but only fall mildly or moderately ill. "They should be reserved for people who fall seriously ill and are hospitalized, and for whom it could be a matter of life or death," he said.

Bottom-line: How dangerous is the virus and how big is my risk?

Unfortunately a good answer to that question isn't here yet. Right now, Ericsson said, "it's a moving target, and we just don't fully know the full story yet. But I would have to say that, at this point, I do not think the average American on the street is at any great risk."

More information

For the latest updates on the swine flu outbreak, head to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Copyright©2009 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Swine flu monitoring needed for farm workers, study says
2. eFoodSafety Enters Research Agreement with University of Minnesota to Test New Food-Grade Antiviral for Swine Influenza Virus
3. Swine Flu Cases Now Total 7: CDC
4. At Least 16 Dead, Hundreds Ill in Swine Flu Outbreak in Mexico
5. At Least 20 Dead, Hundreds Ill in Swine Flu Outbreak in Mexico
6. International SOS Releases Web Site to Educate Public About Swine Flu Outbreak
7. WHO Warns of Possible Pandemic as Mexico Seeks to Contain Swine Flu
8. U.S. Declares Public Health Emergency in Response to Swine Flu
9. Obama Says Swine Flu Outbreak No Cause for Alarm
10. Pennsylvania Working Closely With Federal Partners to Contain Impact of Swine Flu
11. Swine Flu: Infection Control in Hospitals Will Be Critical
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Swine Flu: A Primer
(Date:10/13/2017)... , ... October 13, 2017 , ... ... and Agile Software Development, has been awarded a contract by the Center for ... Agreement (BPA) aims to accelerate the enterprise use of Agile methodologies in a ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... 2017 , ... First Healthcare Compliance (FHC), an industry leader ... range of technology and learning solutions at the 68th Annual American Healthcare Association ... held October 14–18, 2017 at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada. ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... Wis. (PRWEB) , ... October 12, 2017 , ... ... standard products to meet the demand of today’s consumer and regulatory authorities worldwide. ... of probiotic experts and tested to meet the highest standard. , These ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... ... leader in post-acute health care, have expanded their existing home health joint venture ... , AccentCare has been operating a joint venture home health company with Asante, ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... October 12, 2017 , ... HMP ... the recipient of a 2017 Folio Magazine Eddie Digital Award for ‘Best B-to-B Healthcare ... City on October 11, 2017. , The annual award competition recognizes editorial and design ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:9/22/2017)... , Sept. 22, 2017 AVACEN Medical ... device is now successfully helping those with the widespread ... Fibromyalgia diagnosed Amanda in Essex, England ... and washing my hair, experiencing no sleep at all, ... painful spasm… I cannot recommend [the AVACEN 100] enough, ...
(Date:9/19/2017)... 19, 2017   ZirMed Inc ., a recognized leader ... that it has been ranked #1 by its users for ... Rankings 2017 User Survey. ZirMed was recognized as the top-ranked ... and medical centers over 200 beds and holds one of ... user survey history. ...
(Date:9/18/2017)... PROVIDENCE, R.I. , Sept. 18, 2017 ... in the fields of bioinformatics and immune ... to develop a protective avian influenza A (H7N9) vaccine. ... is distantly related to seasonal influenza and ... approaches, which rely on prior exposure to be ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: