The H1N1 Influenza Virus – Symptoms and Treatments

The H1N1 influenza virus has been spreading like a wildfire this year. It's already been a big problem for millions of people.

Predictions for folks in the US look grim anytime there's a pandemic.

It's estimated that 30 percent to half the population could end up catching the virus this year. As many as 30,000 to 90,000 people could die from the flu, which is pretty scary stuff.

h1n1 influenza virus flu shot image

According to these predictions, it will be coming to your hometown soon! If you haven’t caught it yet, you must be informed to protect yourself. I think I had this crud already and if I did, it totally sucks! If you like to breathe, you won't like this virus at all!

The H1N1 influenza virus is a respiratory virus. Germs from the virus enter your body through your mouth, nose, or eyes and go straight to your lungs. Swine flu infects most people in the lower respiratory tract. Once your lungs become infected, they begin to fill up with fluids. That can cause severe respiratory problems, that stress the heart as well as the lungs.

The biggest problems so far has been with young children, those who suffer from Asthma, and pregnant women. If you are at risk, the CDC suggests that you get the flu vaccine as soon as you can.

The H1N1 Influenza Virus

While many flu’s are caught by sneezing and coughing, the H1N1 influenza virus is mostly spread by physical contact with the virus. That means touching something that someone with the virus has coughed or sneezed on, and then touching your fingers to your mouth, nose, or eyes. If you go out in public, which is totally necessary for most folks, keep some antibacterial products with you at all times. As soon as you leave any public place, be sure to apply a hand sanitizer to your fingers especially!

H1N1 influenza virus (aka swine flu) is a strain of the influenza virus that usually affects pigs, but which obviously makes people sick too.

H1N1 flu is a respiratory virus that causes symptoms similar to those of the regular seasonal flu. The symptoms can include fever, fatigue, lack of appetite, coughing and sore throat. Some people with H1N1 also reported vomiting and diarrhea, Strangely enough, I never had a fever but instead had a subnormal temperature, which is atypical of any flu virus.

WHO (World Health Organization) has previously estimated that one out of three people might get flu by the time the pandemic ends. Experts say unless heart patients take precautions to avoid catching the virus, such as getting vaccinated and practicing good hygiene, there could be lethal results.

In the early cases that had significant clinical data, fever (93%) and cough (83%) were the two most reported symptoms. This is not surprising since cough and fever are part of the definition of H1N1.

Historically speaking, the number of reported cases per 100,000 population is highest among people in the 5 years to 24 years age group at 26.7 percent. The 0 to 4 years age group case rate was 22.9 percent. The rate declined further to 6.97 percent in the 25 years to 49 years age group. The rate was 3.9 percent in the 50 years to 64 years age group. The H1N1 influenza virus infection rate was lowest in people 65 years and older at 1.3 percent.

Data for the older group supports laboratory studies that indicate that older people may have pre-existing immunity to the H1N1 influenza virus. The age distribution is very different from what is normally seen for seasonal flu, where older people are more heavily impacted.

However, pregnancy and other previously recognized high risk medical conditions from seasonal influenza appear to be associated with increased risk of complications from H1N1. Underlying conditions include asthma, diabetes, suppressed immune systems, heart disease, kidney disease, neuro-cognitive and neuro-muscular disorders, and pregnancy.

Table: Symptoms of hospitalized H1N1 patients

Number (%)
Fever 249 (93%)
Cough 223 (83%)
Shortness of breath 145 (54%)
Fatigue/Weakness 108 (40%)
Chills 99 (37%)
Muscle Aches 96 (36%)
Sinus Problems 96 (36%)
Sore Throat 84 (31%)
Headache 83 (31%)
Vomiting 78 (29%)
Wheezing 64 (24%)
Diarrhea 64 (24%)

Public health experts have weighed the risks and benefits in providing recommendations on the use of antivirals to prevent infection. After rigorous research and analysis, their conclusion is that the widespread use of antivirals in the community for prevention is not recommended. The use of antivirals for prevention of the H1N1 influenza virus is recommended only under a limited number of circumstances, where the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks.

How is it spread?

Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person, that is by the coughing or sneezing of infected people onto objects or surfaces that you might touch.

If you get the virus

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.

  • Stay home if you get sick. The CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

  • Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds, and take other social distancing measures. (Stay out of movie theaters, packed auditoriums, etc.)

  • Find healthy ways to deal with stress and anxiety. Stress can make you sicker than you might normally be!

    Can you catch swine influenza from eating pork?

    Heck no. H1N1 influenza virus is not transmitted through pork meat.

    Precautions you can take.

    Like seasonal flu, H1N1 influenza virus spreads through coughs and sneezes of people who are already infected. Everyone, including young children especially, should wash with antibacterial soap and warm water often. Also use alcohol-based hand sanitizing gels but be aware that the effects of sanitizers wears off quickly. You'll need to reapply it every couple of hours.

    What is the incubation period for H1N1 Virus?

    This is a new virus that needs continued oversight to learn more about it and how it spreads. Incubation period for the swine influenza appears to be two to seven days.

    Who should get vaccinated?

    These groups should be first in line for H1N1 flu shots, especially if vaccine supplies are limited:

  • People 6 months to 24 years old
  • Pregnant women
  • Health care workers.

    Also a priority are parents and caregivers of infants and people with high-risk medical conditions.

    Health experts are suggesting that everyone should get vaccinated for the regular seasonal flu as soon as possible. Symptoms of the [seasonal] flu can be much worse than they are for H1N1, in some people. Each year in the US, 36,000+ people die from seasonal flu, so it's important to get the vaccine if you are at risk! There are some vaccine's available right now at local drug stores, (like Walgreens), so check at your local drugstore.

    What if you get sick?

    If you have other health problems or are pregnant and develop flu-like symptoms, call your doctor. You may be prescribed Tamiflu or Relenza, which are antiviral drugs that can reduce the severity of H1N1 flu if They're taken right after symptoms develop.

    If you have breathing problems (rapid breathing for kids), pain in your chest, constant vomiting, or a fever that keeps rising, go to an emergency room.

    Most people though, should just stay home and rest. Cough into your elbow or shoulder. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever breaks, if you have one. Fluids and pain relievers like Ibuprofen can help with aches and fever.

    If you get sick with H1N1 Flu Virus once, does that give you immunity or can you get infected with it again?

    Typically, when a person is infected with an influenza virus and recovers, they develop antibodies that provide them with immunity to that particular virus.

    How long does the virus live outside of the body?

    The H1N1 Flu Virus can live outside the body on hard surfaces, such as stainless steel and plastic, for 24-48 hours and on soft surfaces, such as cloth, paper, and tissues for less than 8-12 hours; however, it can only infect a person for up to 2-8 hours after being deposited on hard surfaces, and for up to a few minutes after being deposited on soft surfaces.

    How long does it last?

    Most people with influenza recover completely in 1-2 weeks; however, some may have serious complications (particularly those with underlying conditions) since the severity of illness can vary.

    Who Should Take Antiviral Drugs?

    In its recent guidelines on who should take Tamiflu and Relenza, the World Health Organization named heart patients, HIV patients and pregnant women as "at-risk" groups that should get it as soon as they are suspected of catching swine flu.

    Before heart patients start taking antivirals, their doctors should ensure that the antiviral won't interfere with any other drugs they may already be taking. Heart patients often take a cocktail of various drugs to lower their cholesterol and blood pressure or prevent bleeding. Some of those drugs, like blood thinners or cholesterol-lowering statins, must be monitored carefully for potentially dangerous interactions.

    If you suspect you're getting the H1N1 influenza virus, just stay home. Have some foods in stock that you typically eat when you're sick, or other comfort foods to eat. Consume clear liquids, like water, ginger ale, and apple juice. Bland foods, such as chicken soup, crackers, oatmeal, and rice, are best if you have an upset stomach.

    Stay away from mucous forming foods like milk and cheese products. Drink lots of water to help flush the virus out of your system. Rest as much as possible to help your body heal. Take the time you need to get well, and don't go around other people until you're sure you are well over it!

    Always consult your physician before using natural remedies, especially for anyone with preexisting conditions or anyone currently taking prescription medications. Although many efforts are made to ensure that the advice given on this site is professionally sound, the advice is not intended to replace a mutual relationship with a medical provider.

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