Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wellness Wednesday: H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu)

Many of us have heard about the H1N1 virus, better known as the Swine Flu, but how much do we actually know about it? Here is some more information about the H1N1 virus and some tips for reducing your chances of contracting it.

The H1N1 virus is a form of influenza A that has never before been seen in humans and is not related to the typical flu virus that appears annually. Most of us have at least some immunity from the strains of the flu that appear annually and that is why the H1N1 virus is creating such havoc. People have not developed immunity to it and no vaccine currently prevents it. While it spreads the same way as the "traditional" flu viruses, the swine flu seems to be spreading quicker and further due to the lack of immunity to it. The symptoms are also similar: fever, cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, sore throat and runny nose and occasionally vomitting and diarrhea. Most people who come down with the H1N1 virus will experience mild symptoms, but the symptoms can range from mild to severe, and as we have heard, can result in death. This is the same with the flu strains we see every year. More than half of those who have been hospitalized with the h1N1 virus, had some underlying health issues or weakened immune systems. If you do come down with flu-like symptoms, you can likely recover at home by getting lots of rest, drinking plenty of clear fluids, and taking a pain-reliever for aches and pain. However, if you experience trouble breather, shortness of breath, severe or persistent vomiting, or a fever that lasts more than 3 days, you should seek medical attention.

The World Health Organization has labeled this strain of the flu a pandemic, but as scary as that sounds, it simply means that every nation can expect to see swine flu infections and that they should prepare for them. It has nothing to do with the severity of the illness. However, we should still be prepared for the swine flu and for a worse-than-usual flu season this fall. There is not a need to panic, just to be prepared. Personally, we are making sure we have enough food and medicine on hand in case we are unable to make it to the store due to illness, or in the case of medicine, a shortage at the stores. I am also keeping a few heat-and-eat meals in the freezer in the case that *I* end up sick and unable to cook.

So, now that we know more about the swine flu, how do we avoid it? As with most contagious illnesses, the best way to avoid catching the flu is to wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes, and avoid those who are sick. Likewise, if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, do us all a favor and stay home. If you are sick and absolutely have to be around others, please wash your hands often, and cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing. You cannot catch the swine flu from eating pork or pork products. Although it is called the swine flu, it is not actually spread through pigs to humans.

For more information regarding the H1N1 flu virus, check out WebMd and the World Health Organization

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