We have been asked a lot about the swine influenza and whether or not people need to get a swine flu vaccine. Here is the latest info on the subject.
Swine influenza is actually a broad term used to refer to a number of types of influenza viruses that are contracted by pigs. Some types of swine flu can also be contracted by humans. Humans can get swine flu from pigs, but this is pretty rare. Humans can also pass swine flu on to other humans.
The current (2009) outbreak of swine flu (H1N1) is not actually a virus that people can get from pigs. It is very similar to a virus that pigs get, but it is not the same. The name is deceiving.
People spread this swine flu virus to other people the same way the regular flu is spread. It's a virus and when people with swine flu cough or sneeze, tiny droplets of the virus are sprayed into the air. If you breathe in these droplets, you can catch swine flu. Also, if a person with swine flu coughs or sneezes on something like a phone or doorknob and you touch that object and then touch your mouth or nose, you can catch the flu.
While most cases of swine influenza are fairly mild, it can be a very serious illness and people do die from it. People die from the regular flu, as well, but the swine flu is more likely to be deadly. It is wise to take steps to prevent getting sick.
A swine flu vaccine has recently been approved, and is expected to be available around mid-October of 2009. The swine flu vaccine will probably require two different shots, given a week or two apart. The vaccine will take a couple weeks to "kick in," so you would not actually be immune until some time in November. Contact your doctor in October if you are interested in getting a swine flu vaccine. The regular flu vaccine will not protect you against swine flu.
Treatment for swine influenza is pretty much the same as treatment for other types of flu. In most cases, the virus will clear up on its own even without any treatment. However, treatment may speed the recovery process, and there is treatment available to help with the symptoms as well.
Antiviral medications may be prescribed to speed to the recovery process. They work by preventing the virus from replicating itself. Antiviral medications are not usually necessary, but can be helpful. You will need to see your doctor and get a prescription if you want to try them.
There are a number of over-the-counter remedies that can help relieve flu symptoms. Try Tylenol for fever, an antihistamine for runny nose and sneezing, and a cough suppressant for cough. You can have problems if you take too many over-the-counter drugs at one time, though, so you might do best to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which medications would be best to take.
Although over-the-counter flu remedies will provide some relief, we have found two products that may be significantly more effective:
See your doctor in mid-fall if you want to get a swine flu vaccine. If you do catch the flu, you do not normally need to see a doctor, as the symptoms will generally go away on their own without treatment. However, if your symptoms are particularly severe, if you have a high fever, if your symptoms last longer than a week, or if you have trouble breathing, you should see a doctor. While most cases of the flu, including swine flu, are fairly mild, the flu can be serious, even deadly, so contact your doctor if you have concerns.
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