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H1N1 Swine Flu 2009 - 2010 Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Swine Flu and How Can You Protect Yourself?

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Updated June 12, 2012

Swine Flu

Protect yourself from swine flu.

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Important! Please note: The information in this article has been updated to reflect the latest swine flu information. Link here.

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With so much in the news about swine flu, also called 2009 pandemic novel influenza A H1N1, it's wise to know what it is, what you can expect, and how to protect yourself. Empowered patients can use this knowledge to reduce their fear of swine flu.

What is H1N1 swine flu?

Swine flu is a strain of virus that shares genes with flu viruses that affect pigs. The swine flu of interest in 2009 is the novel H1N1 strain, which was passed from pigs to human beings. It is causing illness in humans, and as of June 2009, was declared pandemic by the World Health Organization. In October 2009, President Barack Obama declared an H1N1 swine flu national emergency in the United States.

What does H1N1 Influenza A mean?

The official, scientific name for swine flu, its serologic classification, is Novel H1N1 Influenza A. "Novel" just means that it is a new strain. The H means hemagglutinin and the N means neuraminidase and the "1"s refer to their antibody type. Influenza A is a genus of the Orthomyxoviridae family of viruses, and refers to the fact that the virus is first identified in an animal, usually a pig or a bird. When put together, they describe the 2009-2010 swine flu virus.

Why is this flu different from other flus?

There are thousands of different kinds of viruses that can cause the flu. New strains develop frequently and each one is different from the one before it. The seasonal flu is actually comprised of several different strains of flu. Swine flu is a new, different strain of virus.

What are the swine flu stages I keep hearing about?

The World Health Organization, WHO, developed a plan to respond to health emergencies, like swine flu, which have the potential to become pandemic. Each stage represents a different level of response. For example, Stage 4 means that the disease can no longer be contained inside any specific country, therefore governments must take steps to handle community spread of the disease. As of late spring 2009, H1N1 swine flu was labeled pandemic by WHO, meaning it had reached Stage 5.

What exactly is a pandemic?

WHO defines a pandemic along those stages mentioned above. They describe the prevalence of the disease, across populations and countries. There is a difference between a pandemic and an epidemic.

Why did President Obama declare a "state of emergency" in the United States?

The state of emergency declaration in October 2009 was a reaction to the fact that more than 1,000 Americans (including almost 100 children) had died as a result of H1N1 swine flu.

The declaration is less about the actual spread of the flu, and more about taking down barriers to quick and more effective reaction on the part of providers, including physicians, hospitals, local health departments and others. In an official state-of-emergency, these groups have more control over how they handle their reactions and less government red tape to deal with.

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Important! Please note: The information in this article has been updated to reflect the latest swine flu information. Link here.

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I keep hearing "swine flu" and "avian flu" in the same sentence.
What's that all about?

Avian flu is another name for bird flu. This pairing is heard as "swine, avian, human" and refers to the fact that the H1N1 pandemic flu strain seems to be a combination of all three.

How is the swine flu transmitted?

The swine flu is transmitted just the way any viral disease is transmitted through person-to-person contact. One person touches something someone with a virus has already touched, or droplets in the air which came from a sneeze or a cough of a person who has the swine flu spread to another person.

What are the symptoms of swine flu?

Symptoms of swine flu are the same as typical flu symptoms. Fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue are the most prevalent symptoms. Some patients report diarrhea and vomiting, too.

Do people die from swine flu?

People can die, but most do not.

Is there a swine flu vaccine like seasonal flu vaccine?

A vaccine was developed similarly to the way seasonal flu is developed. Specific groups of people will be inoculated first, according to the plans suggested by the CDC.

In the early stages of H1N1 swine flu innoculation, there are severe shortages of vaccine. To determine whether you are at risk, and therefore need to be vaccinated, you'll want to stay up with progress in the development and dissemination of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine.

There are many spam emails circulating that claim a vaccine is available for purchase on the Internet. Don't be fooled! The vaccine cannot be purchased by individuals, so anything you might purchase on the web would likely be counterfeit.

Is it possible to track swine flu outbreaks?

Yes. There are a number of ways to track incidents of swine flu across the world.

You and Swine Flu

I never come into contact with pigs. Am I safe from swine flu?

No. This is a myth. Transmission of the virus doesn't require you to come into contact with pigs. It can pass from one human to another. According to the CDC, there is some evidence that people who do come into contact regularly with pigs may be immune to the swine flu.

I got a flu shot. Am I protected?

Health officials say that a seasonal flu shot (which addresses different strains of flu) will not protect us from the swine flu. The seasonal flu shot was developed to combat strains that are not related to the swine flu strain, H1N1. If you get a flu shot in 2009, be sure to ask clearly which vaccine(s) you are receiving -- swine flu or seasonal flu. Infectious diseases experts tell us we will be need both shots to benefit from the most protection.

Is there any way to prepare in case I (or my loved one) gets the H1N1 Swine Flu?

Absolutely. The World Health Organization believes no matter how much we try to prevent it, at least one-third of us will get the swine flu. It makes sense to follow these steps to prepare for the swine flu.

More answers to your questions, next page....

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Important! Please note: The information in this article has been updated to reflect the latest swine flu information. Link here.

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Part II: How to Prevent or Protect Yourself and Your Family from Swine Flu

Part III: Should You Fear Swine Flu?

Part IV:H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccines and Vaccinations - What Do You Need to Know?

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