Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine Flu

What is this?

It's in the news - around the globe. Words like "epidemic" and "pandemic" - what does it mean? Both terms refer to the spread of infectious disease in a population and the difference between the two terms is a bit fuzzy. Normally a pandemic indicates a much higher number of people affected and/or a larger region affected - in the most extreme case - global. An epidemic is where the numbers of cases show up in higher numbers, but usually less of the population is affected and/or not as wide a geographic distribution. Either large enough numbers or big enough area can make an outbreak a pandemic.

Do I have the Swine Flu?

Symptoms are similar to the annual flu, including fever, muscle aches, runny nose, sore throat, cough, general respiratory symptoms and in the case of swine, more reports of vomiting and diarrhea. If you live where there have been cases of Swine Flu the doctor will probably run lab tests to confirm it.

What can I do to avoid catching this?

Practicing good health habits is the best defense. Eat right, get rest and avoid bad habits that tax your immune system. In addition, the CDC recommends:
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw it in the trash afterward.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based cleaners, especially after coughing, sneezing, using public facilities, door handles, handrails, etc.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth (this is how germs spread).
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people (it's spread person to person through coughing and sneezing by infected people).
  • If you suspect swine flu, stay home from work, school or other public places!
What if I get it?

You should contact your doctor right away if you have symptoms. There are antiviral medications to help your body fight the infection and you may get over it faster. But, these work best if started within two days of the onset of illness.

Special considerations for pregnant women

As with all medications,drug testing is not done in pregnant women, so information is limited. The recommendation for these antiviral drugs is that they should be used when the benefit outweighs any potential risk. However, no adverse affects have been reported by women who used these agents in pregnancy. We do not want pregnant women to become dehydrated and feverish so the benefits may be in favor of treatment. Some experts believe zanamivir (Relenza) would be the best choice for pregnant women since it is inhaled and there would be less sytemic absorption of the medication. This is theoretical.

Emergency warning signs needing immediate medical attention

  • Fast and/or labored breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve, but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
For more information, visit the CDC site or Mayo Clinic

Prepare now. If you have food storage on hand so you won't have to go out to the store it will not only reduce your risk of exposure, should the bug arrive in Utah, but if someone in your household becomes ill, you will not be forced out of the house for basic needs. This is especially important for those who are immunosuppressed due to illnesses or chemotherapy. While everyone is well, refill prescriptions that will be running out and stock up to have at least a couple of weeks' goods on hand. Anything you can do to reduce your need to mingle in public places will help. Don't forget to stock acetaminophen, cold and flu symptom relievers, juice, and chicken soup.

CDC info for pregnant women here. Of particular interest to breastfeeding moms:

"How should I feed my baby?

Flu can be very serious in young babies. Babies who are breastfed do not get as sick and are sick less often from the flu, than do babies who are not breastfed.

Breastfeeding protects babies. Breast milk passes on antibodies from the mother to a baby. Antibodies help fight off infection.

Is it ok to breastfeed my baby if I am sick?

  • A mother’s milk is made to fight diseases in her baby. This is really important in young babies when their immune system is still growing.
  • Do not stop breastfeeding if you are ill. Breastfeed early and often. Limit formula feeds if you can. This will help protect your baby from infection.
  • Be careful not to cough or sneeze in the baby’s face, wash your hands often with soap and water
  • Your doctor might ask you to wear a mask to keep from spreading this new virus to your baby
  • If you are too sick to breastfeed, pump and have someone give the expressed milk to your baby.

Is it OK to take medicine to treat or prevent H1N1 flu while breastfeeding?

Yes. Mothers who are breastfeeding can continue to nurse their babies while being treated for the flu."

For more information visit March of Dimes Blog Best Blogger Tips

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