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Home > Swine flu

Swine Flu

What is the swine flu?
What is the history of swine flu?
What are the symptoms of swine flu?
How can swine (H1N1) flu be prevented?
How to Infection Control?
Antiviral Treatment
Suspected Cases
Confirmed Cases

What is the swine flu?
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The swine influenza A (H1N1) virus that has infected humans in the U.S. and Mexico is a novel influenza A virus that has not previously been identified in North America. This virus is resistant to the antiviral medications amantadine (Symmetrel) and rimantadine (Flumadine), but is sensitive to oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). Investigations of these cases suggest that on-going human-to-human swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is occurring.

What is the history of swine flu?

In 1976, there was an outbreak of swine flu at Fort Dix. This virus is not the same as the 2009 outbreak, but it was similar insofar as it was an influenza A virus that had similarities to the swine flu virus. There was one death at Fort Dix. The government decided to produce a vaccine against this virus, but the vaccine was associated with neurological complications (Guillain-Barré syndrome) and was discontinued. Some individuals speculate that formalin, used to inactivate the virus, may have played a role in the development of this complication in 1976. There is no evidence that anyone who obtained this vaccine would be protected against the 2009 swine flu. One of the reasons it takes a few months to develop a new vaccine is to test the vaccine for safety to avoid the complications seen in the 1976 vaccine. New vaccines against any flu virus type are usually made by growing virus particles in eggs. A serious side effect (allergic reaction such as swelling of the airway) to vaccines can occur in people who are allergic to eggs; these people should not get flu vaccines. Individuals with active infections or diseases of the nervous system are also not recommended to get flu vaccines.
What are the symptoms of swine flu?

Although uncomplicated influenza-like illness (fever, cough or sore throat) has been reported in many cases, mild respiratory illness (nasal congestion, rhinorrhea) without fever and occasional severe disease also has been reported. Other symptoms reported with swine influenza A virus infection include vomiting, diarrhea, myalgia, headache, chills, fatigue, and dyspnea. Conjunctivitis is rare, but has been reported. Severe disease (pneumonia, respiratory failure) and fatal outcomes have been reported with swine influenza A virus infection. The potential for exacerbation of underlying chronic medical conditions or invasive bacterial infection with swine influenza A virus infection should be considered.

How can swine (H1N1) flu be prevented?

The best way to prevent swine flu would be the same best way to prevent other influenza infections, and that is vaccination. When a safe vaccine is developed (projected to happen in a few months), people should get vaccinated if the disease is still causing infections. The CDC says that a good way to prevent any flu disease is to avoid exposure to the virus; this is done by frequent hand washing, not touching your hands to your face (especially the nose and mouth), and avoiding any close proximity to or touching any person that may have flu symptoms. Since the virus can remain viable and infectious for about 48 hours on many surfaces, good hygiene and cleaning with soap and water or alcohol-based hand disinfectants are also recommended. Some physicians say face masks may help prevent getting airborne flu viruses (for example, from a cough or sneeze), but others think the better use for masks would be on those people who have symptoms and sneeze or cough. The use of Tamiflu or Relenza may help prevent the flu if taken before symptoms develop or reduce symptoms if taken within about 48 hours after symptoms develop. However, taking these drugs is not routinely recommended for prevention because investigators suggest that as occurs with most drugs, flu strains will develop resistance to these medications. Your doctor should be consulted before these drugs are prescribed.

How to Control Infection ?

Recommended treatment Control for a non-hospitalized patient (ER, clinic or home visit):
Antiviral Treatment
Suspected Cases:

Empiric antiviral treatment is recommended for any ill person suspected to have swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection. Antiviral treatment with either zanamivir alone or with a combination of oseltamivir and either amantadine or rimantadine should be initiated as soon as possible after the onset of symptoms. Recommended duration of treatment is five days. Recommendations for use of antivirals may change as data on antiviral susceptibilities become available. Antiviral doses and schedules recommended for treatment of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection are the same as those recommended for seasonal influenza:
Confirmed Cases

For antiviral treatment of a confirmed case of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection, either oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) may be administered. Recommended duration of treatment is five days. These same antivirals should be considered for treatment of cases that test positive for influenza A but test negative for seasonal influenza viruses H3 and H1 by PCR.

Pregnant Women:

Oseltamivir, zanamivir, amantadine, and rimantadine are all "Pregnancy Category C" medications, indicating that no clinical studies have been conducted to assess the safety of these medications for pregnant women. Only two cases of amantadine use for severe influenza illness during the third trimester have been reported. However, both amantadine and rimantadine have been demonstrated in animal studies to be teratogenic and embryotoxic when administered at substantially high doses. Because of the unknown effects of influenza antiviral drugs on pregnant women and their fetuses, these four drugs should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the embryo or fetus; the manufacturers' package inserts should be consulted. However, no adverse effects have been reported among women who received oseltamivir or zanamivir during pregnancy or among infants born to such women.

Antiviral Chemoprophylaxis

For antiviral chemoprophylaxis of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection, either oseltamivir or zanamivir are recommended. Duration of antiviral chemoprophylaxis is 7 days after the last known exposure to an ill confirmed case of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection. Antiviral dosing and schedules recommended for chemoprophylaxis of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection are the same as those recommended for seasonal influenza:


Antiviral chemoprophylaxis (pre-exposure or post-exposure) with either oseltamivir or zanamivir is recommended for the following individuals:
  1. Household close contacts who are at high-risk for complications of influenza (persons with certain chronic medical conditions, elderly) of a confirmed or suspected case.
  2. School children who are at high-risk for complications of influenza (persons with certain chronic medical conditions) who had close contact (face-to-face) with a confirmed or suspected case.
  3. Travelers to Mexico who are at high-risk for complications of influenza (persons with certain chronic medical conditions, elderly).
  4. Border workers (Mexico) who are at high-risk for complications of influenza (persons with certain chronic medical conditions, elderly)
  5. Health care workers or public health workers who had unprotected close contact with an ill confirmed case of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection during the case's infectious period.


  6. Antiviral chemoprophylaxis (pre-exposure or post-exposure) with either oseltamivir or zanamivir can be considered for the following:
    • Any health care worker who is at high-risk for complications of influenza (persons with certain chronic medical conditions, elderly) who is working in an area with confirmed swine influenza A (H1N1) cases, and who is caring for patients with any acute febrile respiratory illness
    • Non-high risk persons who are travelers to Mexico, first responders, or border workers who are working in areas with confirmed cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection.
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