5 Questions About the Swine Flu

An AAHPO Medical Alert



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Whether or not you are a healthcare provider, you most likely have some questions about the Swine Flu. Fortunately, Dr. Tsoline Kojaoghlanian, Assistant Professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Children's Hospital at Montefiore, NY, is here to help.

Q. Now the media is saying that swine flu is not as serious as once thought. Does this mean swine flu is no longer a threat?
A. The medical specialists who have been studying the virus and monitoring the outbreak very closely have seen that, so far, the symptoms of the new swine-origin influenza virus are similar to the already circulating human influenza viruses, and its transmission from human-to-human is not as efficient. However, since this is a new virus and thus it is unpredictable, continued monitoring remains important. The flu season will begin in the Southern hemisphere soon, and the behavior of the new virus will be closely watched in the next few months.  
Q.What should health providers do to protect people from widespread outbreaks or pandemics?
A. Lessons are learned from past influenza outbreaks and pandemics. Typically, they were characterized by shifts of the highest death rates to younger populations, and greater transmission from person to person especially among children; thus, health care providers should encourage strict hand hygiene, advise keeping youngsters with influenza at home, and urge and prioritize vaccinating the young. 
Q. Schools have been reopened, and most schools never closed. Does this mean my children are no longer in danger of contracting swine flu from other children?
A. Since transmission of the new swine-origin influenza virus from person to person is not very high, your child's risk of contracting the virus from other children is low. The good news is, if they do contract it, they will be only mildly ill, but should remain home from school for a week in order not to transmit it to other children.
Q. If my child or other family member feels ill, should I call the
doctor, or just "wait and see"?
A. Influenza, both human and swine-origin, is characterized by high fever, a lot of body aches, headache, cough plus slight vomiting and diarrhea in children. If any of you have these symptoms, you should see your doctor because, if caught within the first 24 hours of becoming ill, you can be given medication that can alleviate the illness faster. However, if you have a slight stuffy nose or runny nose, low (or no) fever and still feel strong enough to go to work or school, then you do not need to see your physician.
Q. If a vaccine for swine flu is developed, how will I know it is safe for my child or other family members?
A. The medical community and the government will do testing of pilot lots of the new vaccine(s) in humans through clinical trials to determine its safety before recommending it to the general public. The methods used for preparation of the vaccine will be similar to those already used for the current human vaccines.
For more information about swine flu in humans and pigs, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website by clicking here.
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