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Swine Flu

Swine Influenza / Pig Blue Influenza / Swine Flu / Hog Flu / Pig Flu / H1N1

Swine flu, also known as H1N1 is a relatively new strain of flu that caused a pandemic in 2009-10.

H1N1 flu spreads exactly like the common cold and flu virus. People usually become infected by picking up the virus on their hand when touching contaminated objects. The virus can also be contracted via airborne droplets that are breathed in. Droplets have the ability to spread up to a metre (3 feet) away and can survive for up to 24 hours after they have landed on a surface.

Symptoms

For most people, Swine flu symptoms are similar to a common cold or flu. H1N1 may be identified if a fever or high temperature (over 38C/100.4F) and 2 of the following symptoms are showing:

  • Unusual tiredness
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Shortness of breath or cough
  • Loss of appetite
  • Aching muscles
  • Diarrhoea or vomiting

However, some groups of people are more at risk of serious illness if they catch flu. It is already known that you are particularly at risk if you have:

  • Chronic (long-term) lung disease
  • Chronic heart disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Chronic neurological disease (neurological disorders include chronic fatigue syndrome, Multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease)
  • Immunosuppression (whether caused by disease or treatment)
  • Diabetes mellitus

Also at risk are:

  • Patients who have had drug treatment for asthma within the past 3 years
  • Pregnant women
  • People aged 65 and older

Treatment

As with ordinary flu, Swine flu can be treated by getting lots of rest and using standard paracetamol-based cold remedies to reduce the temperature and help relieve symptoms.

However, if symptoms persist then the antiviral medications oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) may be used to treat some people with H1N1 flu. Your GP will prescribe these if necessary.

Antivirals are not a cure for H1N1 flu, but will help:

  • Reduce the length of time you are ill by around one day
  • Relieve some of the symptoms
  • Reduce the potential for serious complications such as pneumonia

Tamiflu and Relenza are both medicines of the same type, but Relenza comes as an inhaler (rather than a tablet) and is recommended for use in pregnancy.

Antibiotics are used to treat H1N1 flu patients who develop complications as they help combat bacterial infections such as pneumonia.

Find out more about Infection Control

This website contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice, and should not be treated as such. Please read our medical disclaimer.