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Swine Flu, Influenza A(H1N1)

 

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What is the new influenza A(H1N1)?

This is a new influenza A(H1N1) virus that has never before circulated among humans. This virus is not related to previous or current human seasonal influenza viruses.

How do people become infected with the virus?

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The virus is spread from person-to-person. It is transmitted as easily as the normal seasonal flu and can be passed to other people by exposure to infected droplets expelled by coughing or sneezing that can be inhaled, or that can contaminate hands or surfaces.

To prevent spread, people who are ill should cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, stay home when they are unwell, clean their hands regularly, and keep some distance from healthy people, as much as possible.

There are no known instances of people getting infected by exposure to pigs or other animals.

The place of origin of the virus is unknown.

What are the signs and symptoms of infection?

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Signs of influenza A(H1N1) are flu-like, including fever, cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, sore throat and runny nose, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhoea.

Why are we so worried about this flu when hundreds of thousands die every year from seasonal epidemics?

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Seasonal influenza occurs every year and the viruses change each year – but many people have some immunity to the circulating virus which helps limit infections. Some countries also use seasonal influenza vaccines to reduce illness and deaths.

But influenza A(H1N1) is a new virus and one to which most people have no or little immunity and, therefore, this virus could cause more infections than are seen with seasonal flu. WHO is working closely with manufacturers to expedite the development of a safe and effective vaccine but it will be some months before it is available.

The new influenza A(H1N1) appears to be as contagious as seasonal influenza, and is spreading fast particularly among young people (from ages 10 to 45). The severity of the disease ranges from very mild symptoms to severe illnesses that can result in death. The majority of people who contract the virus experience the milder disease and recover without antiviral treatment or medical care. Of the more serious cases, more than half of hospitalized people had underlying health conditions or weak immune systems.

Most people experience mild illness and recover at home. When should someone seek medical care?

A person should seek medical care if they experience shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or if a fever continues more than three days. For parents with a young child who is ill, seek medical care if a child has fast or labored breathing, continuing fever or convulsions (seizures).

Supportive care at home – resting, drinking plenty of fluids and using a pain reliever for aches – is adequate for recovery in most cases. (A non-aspirin pain reliever should be used by children and young adults because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome.)

Use of antiviral drugs against influenza A(H1N1)

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For what purposes can antiviral drugs be used against influenza A(H1N1)?

So far most people who have contracted the new A (H1N1) virus have experienced influenza-like symptoms (such as sore throat, cough, runny nose, fever, malaise, headache, joint/muscle pain) and recovered without antiviral treatment.

Antiviral drugs may reduce the symptoms and duration of illness, just as they do for seasonal influenza. They also may contribute to preventing severe disease and death. Influenza A (H1N1) is a new virus and only a small number of people with the infection have been treated for it with antiviral drugs. WHO is in touch with public health authorities and clinicians in affected countries and is gathering information about how effective the drugs are.

To which antiviral drugs does this influenza virus respond?

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There are two classes of antiviral drugs for influenza: inhibitors of neuraminidase such as oseltamivir and zanamivir; and adamantanes, such as amantadine and rimantadine. Tests on viruses obtained from patients in Mexico and the United States have indicated that current new H1N1 viruses are sensitive to neuraminidase inhibitors, but that the viruses are resistant to the other class, the adamantanes.

Could the virus become resistant to oseltamivir and zanamivir?

Resistance can develop to antiviral drugs used for influenza. Therefore, WHO and its partners are monitoring antiviral drug resistance.

Under what circumstances should antiviral drugs be administered?

Antiviral drugs are to be used according to national pandemic influenza preparedness plans. Public health authorities in some countries have decided to treat patients likely to have this disease as a part of public health measures.

Where antiviral drugs are available for treatment, clinicians should make decisions based on assessment of the individual patient’s risk. Risks versus benefits should also be evaluated on a case by case basis.

Should I take an antiviral now just in case I catch the new virus?

No. You should only take an antiviral, such as oseltamivir or zanamivir, if your health care provider advises you to do so. Individuals should not buy medicines to prevent or fight this new influenza without a prescription, and they should exercise caution in buying antivirals over the internet.

Warning on purchase of antivirals without a prescription, including via the Internet [pdf 35kb]

What is WHO doing about getting antiviral drugs to countries as preparation for a pandemic?

WHO’s first priority is to provide an emergency stock of antiviral drugs to countries that have no or insufficient stock of the drugs and lack the capacity to procure these drugs themselves.

WHO is also working with Member States, donors and other groups that have stockpiles and are willing to share these with WHO for distribution to countries in need.

Which drug will be provided, and how much of it does WHO have available?

WHO had a global stockpile of approximately 5 million adult treatment courses of oseltamivir. Part of this stockpile has already been distributed through the WHO Regional Offices, which are handling allocation and distribution. WHO is currently distributing the remaining 3 million adult treatment courses of this stockpile to developing countries in need.

WHO continues to assess needs and to work with manufacturers to secure more donations of antivirals. More antiviral drugs will be distributed once these donations are received.

Which countries will receive the drug, and how will they be selected?

WHO has arranged the first deployment of antiviral drugs from the WHO stockpile to 72 countries. Priority was given to vulnerable countries, taking into consideration national manufacturing and procurement capacity. As necessary, other countries will be supported through regional office stockpiles.

What if the initial emergency deployment turns out to be inadequate?

WHO is in discussion with manufacturers regarding the potential need for scaling up production. It is WHO’s understanding that manufacturers have plans for producing large numbers of treatments quickly.

WHO will work on behalf of its Member States to secure further antivirals as needed, either through donations or purchase at the lowest possible price.

How it spreads ?

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The safety of pork

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Is it safe to eat pork and pork products?

Yes. influenza A(H1N1) has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating properly handled and prepared pork (pig meat) or other products derived from pigs. The influenza A(H1N1) virus is killed by cooking temperatures of 160°F/70°C, corresponding to the general guidance for the preparation of pork and other meat.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

The five keys to safer food

Five keys


– Keep clean
– Separate raw and cooked
– Cook thoroughly
– Keep food at safe temperatures
– Use safe water and raw materials


:: Briefing note on the Five Keys [pdf 180kb]
This note gives an overview of the Five Keys to Safer Food Programme, from the development of the message to implementations in countries.

:: Five keys to safer food poster
Introduced in 2001, the poster, now available in more than 50 languages, is used as the basis for educational projects all over the world.

:: Five keys to safer food manual
The manual elaborates the food safety information provided in the WHO Five keys to safety food poster and suggests ways to communicate the message.

:: The Five Keys to Safer Food Training Programme
Pilot tested in South Africa, Tunisia and Belize, the training programme is being finalized and will be published in June 2009.

:: Building on the Five Keys to Safer Food concept: The 3 Fives
Introduced in 2007, The 3 Fives: Five Keys to Safer Food, Five Keys to a Healthy Diet, Five Keys to Appropriate Physical Activity, were used to promote healthy lifestyles during the Beijing Olympics.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

What can I do?

What can I do to protect myself from catching influenza A(H1N1)?

The main route of transmission of the new influenza A(H1N1) virus seems to be similar to seasonal influenza, via droplets that are expelled by speaking, sneezing or coughing. You can prevent getting infected by avoiding close contact with people who show influenza-like symptoms (trying to maintain a distance of about 1 metre if possible) and taking the following measures:

  • avoid touching your mouth and nose;
  • clean hands thoroughly with soap and water, or cleanse them with an alcohol-based hand rub on a regular basis (especially if touching the mouth and nose, or surfaces that are potentially contaminated);
  • avoid close contact with people who might be ill;
  • reduce the time spent in crowded settings if possible;
  • improve airflow in your living space by opening windows;
  • practise good health habits including adequate sleep, eating nutritious food, and keeping physically active.

What about using a mask? What does WHO recommend?

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If you are not sick you do not have to wear a mask.

If you are caring for a sick person, you can wear a mask when you are in close contact with the ill person and dispose of it immediately after contact, and cleanse your hands thoroughly afterwards.

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When and how to use a mask?

If you are sick and must travel or be around others, cover your mouth and nose.

Using a mask correctly in all situations is essential. Incorrect use actually increases the chance of spreading infection.

How do I know if I have influenza A(H1N1)?

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You will not be able to tell the difference between seasonal flu and influenza A(H1N1) without medical help. Typical symptoms to watch for are similar to seasonal viruses and include fever, cough, headache, body aches, sore throat and runny nose. Only your medical practitioner and local health authority can confirm a case of influenza A(H1N1).

What should I do if I think I have the illness?

If you feel unwell, have high fever, cough or sore throat:

  • stay at home and keep away from work, school or crowds;
  • rest and take plenty of fluids;
  • cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing and, if using tissues, make sure you dispose of them carefully. Clean your hands immediately after with soap and water or cleanse them with an alcohol-based hand rub;
  • if you do not have a tissue close by when you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth as much as possible with the crook of your elbow;
  • use a mask to help you contain the spread of droplets when you are around others, but be sure to do so correctly;
  • inform family and friends about your illness and try to avoid contact with other people;
  • If possible, contact a health professional before traveling to a health facility to discuss whether a medical examination is necessary.

Should I take an antiviral now just in case I catch the new virus?

No. You should only take an antiviral, such as oseltamivir or zanamivir, if your health care provider advises you to do so. Individuals should not buy medicines to prevent or fight this new influenza without a prescription, and they should exercise caution in buying antivirals over the Internet.

Warning on purchase of antivirals without a prescription [pdf 35kb]

What about breastfeeding? Should I stop if I am ill?

No, not unless your health care provider advises it. Studies on other influenza infections show that breastfeeding is most likely protective for babies – it passes on helpful maternal immunities and lowers the risk of respiratory disease. Breastfeeding provides the best overall nutrition for babies and increases their defense factors to fight illness.

When should someone seek medical care?

A person should seek medical care if they experience shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or if a fever continues more than three days. For parents with a young child who is ill, seek medical care if a child has fast or labored breathing, continuing fever or convulsions (seizures).

Supportive care at home – resting, drinking plenty of fluids and using a pain reliever for aches – is adequate for recovery in most cases. (A non-aspirin pain reliever should be used by children and young adults because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome.)

Should I go to work if I have the flu but am feeling OK?

No. Whether you have influenza A(H1N1) or a seasonal influenza, you should stay home and away from work through the duration of your symptoms. This is a precaution that can protect your work colleagues and others.

Can I travel?

If you are feeling unwell or have symptoms of influenza, you should not travel. If you have any doubts about your health, you should check with your health care provider.

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Courtesy: World Health Organization  http://www.who.int/en/ and other sources

Filed under: Article of the Week, , ,

2 Responses

  1. shadows says:

    What are the plans for developing 2009 H1N1 vaccine?
    Vaccines are the most powerful public health tool for control of influenza, and the U.S. government is working closely with manufacturers to take steps in the process to manufacture a 2009 H1N1 vaccine. Working together with scientists in the public and private sector, CDC has isolated the new H1N1 virus and modified the virus so that it can be used to make hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine. Vaccine manufacturers are now using these materials to begin vaccine production. Making vaccine is a multi-step process which takes several months to complete. Candidate vaccines will be tested in clinical trials over the few months.

    Like

  2. soniya says:

    thx for givig a good informatom

    Like

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