History Revived Aout aH1N1 Flu

We have been flooded with so much write up and information about the novel aH1N1 virus that it is now difficult to keep it all straight. Here is a top ten list of FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS about the 2009 aH1N1 Flu … much of it coming from the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has done a spectacular job of providing timely and useful information.

1. What is the aH1N1 Flu?

aH1n1 flu or better known as swine flu which hit globally on early April of 2009 is caused by a novel influenza virus called aH1n1 virus. It hit Mexico in April and later on spread to the United States and eventually around the world. aH1n1 virus contains a combination of genetic materials found in seasonal influenza viruses that infect humans, birds, and pigs.

On June 11th, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the highest alert level of phase 6 pandemic and a month later aH1n1 virus was identified as the fastest growing pandemic in history.

The virus is contagious, spreading easily from one person to another, and from one country to another. As of today, nearly 30,000 confirmed cases have been reported in 74 countries. WHO, 11 June 2009

2. Should people be wary over this fastest growing pandemic?

History reveals that the world has suffered 3 major pandemics affecting a large population. The most devastating incident was the influenza pandemic of 1918 which killed over 100 million people worldwide and about 750,000 Americans at a time when its population was only 100 million.  Second major pandemic incident was of 1957 called Asian Flu which caused 70,000 mortalities. The third was the pandemic of 1968 which killed about 34,000 people throughout the world.

So if WHO gives us an alert 6 for aH1N1 pandemic in 2009, should people be concerned about it?

3. How is the 2009 aH1N1 virus different from the typical seasonal flu virus?

aH1n1 virus is a novel strain, most people of all ages don’t have immunity against it yet. It spreads quite faster than the traditional seasonal flu virus.

The seasonal flu affects mostly the elderly with over 90% of deaths occurring in patients over 65 years old. While 2009 aH1n1 affects mostly young adults and children while the elderly seem to have some immunity. Only 18% of deaths from aH1n1 occurred in patients over 65.

Between April to September 2009, there were 532 reported deaths caused by aH1N1 virus and 9,079 cases of illnesses in the United States and territories.

For both the regular flu and the 2009 aH1N1, certain groups are at high risk for complications once infected. Children under 5, pregnant women, persons with AIDS, ashtma, diabetes, neurological disorders, kidney problems, and heart disease, adults over age 65 are identified as high risk group.

4. How do you know if you are infected with aH1n1 virus?

The symptoms of aH1n1 flu are very similar to the regular seasonal flu such as fever, headache, fatigue, cough, sore throat, runny nose, and aches and pains and in some cases, there may be gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

5. How is aH1n1 virus transferred?

Just like any other regular seasonal virus, aH1n1 enters your body through nose, mouth and eyes. People infected with aH1N1 shed virus starting a day before symptoms begin and lasting up to a week or longer in some patients. Virus is transmitted when an infected person sneezes or coughs and the virus-filled droplets from sneeze go to another person. The virus also transfers when a person touches a surface that is filled with virus and then touch his mouth, eyes or nose.

6. How do we prevent ourselves from getting the seasonal flu or aH1ni flu?

Proper sanitation and hygiene is one best way to prevent from getting flu. Experts emphasize the importance of covering the mouth with a clean tissue paper when your sneeze or cough. Regular washing of hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer.

Avoid close contact with ill people. If you have flu, CDC advises you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medication. In some situations, the use of a face mask may be indicated, especially to try to prevent flu in patients at increased risk for complications

But the most effective way is get vaccinated especially if you belong to the high risk group. CDC recommends immunization for both the regular seasonal flu and aH1n1. The newly developed aH1n1 vaccine has shown to be safe in adults.

Due to limited supply of aH1n1 vaccines, those on the priority list to get it include pregnant women, people in close contact with infants 6 months and younger, health care workers, those ages 6 months to 24 years, and people ages 25 to 64 with serious conditions that put them at high risk for complications from flu.

7. Tamiflu and Relenza safe to use as treatment?

Dr. Anne Schuchat of the CDC said  that though the majority of adolescents, adults and children infected with aH1n1 can be taken care of by  home rest, taking lots of liquids it is also important to take early antiviral medication – within 48 hours if possible – for patients with high risk of complications.

Doctors are given with the option of close monitoring observing the patient closely and only start administering antiviral treatment if evidence of flu develops.

8. When is medical treatment or help needed?

These are the warning signs that would prompt you to seek medical help and evaluation:
trouble breathing, pain or discomfort in the chest or abdomen, dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting.

Warning signs in children include: trouble breathing, bluish or gray skin color, inability to drink enough fluids, severe or persistent vomiting, change in mental status (e.g., not waking up, not interacting, or being unusually irritable), and symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.

9. Should I get the aH1N1 vaccine even if I think I already had the H1N1 flu?

YES, because the vast majority of patients diagnosed with aH1N1 were not specifically tested for the virus. It could be any regular seasonal virus that made you sick. Even if through “quick test”, aH1n1 was identified to be positive, these results may not be 100% certain. So the CDC recommends playing it safe and getting both the regular seasonal flu vaccine and the aH1N1 virus vaccine.

10. Will aH1n1 virus strike back?

Flu virus is self-limiting and it dies down over the summer because it thrives only when the weather is cold and dry. During summer the aH1n1 virus spreads to the Southern Hemisphere because it winter in the region.

The virus may be relatively mild now, but it can quickly mutate and become more deadly. If two virus happens to infect the same host at the same time, the two strains can trade genetic material and become a new resistant strain. The strain which is vulnerable to Tamiflu could become resistant, experts have hypothesized.