The H1N1 virus (swine flu) is a new flu virus strain that is causing illnesses in humans worldwide.
In June 2009, the World Health Organization declared a worldwide swine flu pandemic.
Earlier forms of the H1N1 virus were found in pigs. Over time, the virus changed (mutated) and can now infect humans. Because H1N1 is a new virus in humans, your immune system cannot fight the virus very well. As a result, it has spread quickly around the world.
The largest number of H1N1 flu cases have occurred in people ages 5 - 24. Few cases, and no deaths, have been reported in people older than age 64.
The H1N1 flu virus can spread from person to person when:
You CANNOT get H1N1 flu virus from eating pork or any other food, drinking water, swimming in pools, or using a hot tubs or saunas.
Symptoms of H1N1 flu infection in humans are similar to classic flu-like symptoms, which might include:
If you think you have been exposed to H1N1 influenza, call your health care provider before your visit. The medical staff may want to take proper precautions to protect themselves and other patients during your office visit.
Because the H1N1 flu has become widespread, most people do not need to be tested for it when they have symptoms.
Your doctor may test you for the H1N1 flu virus by swabbing the back of the inside of your nose if:
Your doctor may:
Most people who get H1N1 flu will likely recover without needing medical care or special antiviral medications. Check with your health care provider about whether you should take antiviral medications to treat the H1N1 flu.
Doctors may prescribe antiviral drugs to treat people who become very sick with the flu or are at high risk for flu complications. The following people may be at high risk:
Other high risk people include:
People who may receive antiviral medications after coming into close contact with a person who is known to have, or probably is infected with the H1N1 virus, include:
Oseltamivir or zanamivir are the two drugs recommended for the treatment or prevention of infection with the H1N1, or swine, influenza virus.
People with H1N1 flu should also:
The outlook depends on the severity of the infection, age, and whether there are other medical problems.
Pregnant women and young people appear more likely to get the H1N1 virus and also to have bad outcomes when they become infected.
Surprisingly, people age 65 or older have a lower risk than younger age groups.
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Severe illness may occur along with:
Like seasonal flu, H1N1 flu may make other chronic medical problems worse.
Anyone who is pregnant, has young children, or has a health condition such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or emphysema should check with their doctor when they become ill.
If you are ill and have any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care.
In children, emergency signs include:
In adults, emergency signs include:
Everyone should take these steps to prevent the flu from spreading:
A new H1N1 vaccine is expected to be available in the fall of 2009.
The CDC recommends that these groups receive the vaccine:
It is possible there will not be enough H1N1 vaccine at first. If this happens, the CDC recommends that these groups receive the vaccination first:
Check with your doctor or nurse, local pharmacist, and local health departments to see when the vaccine will be available.
Anyone who receives this new vaccine still should also receive the seasonal flu vaccine that is released every year. You may receive both vaccines on the same day.