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UPDATED: MONDAY, MAY 4
If you've been reading about H1N1 flu, which is also known as "swine flu," you may be confused about what you can do to stay healthy and safe. Find out what you need to know about this illness and learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones by reading the information here.
Swine flu is a respiratory infection caused by influenza type A viruses that regularly cause outbreaks of influenza in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can occur. Human cases typically involve people who have had direct contact with pigs, but person-to-person transmission has now been reported. The confirmed cases in the U.S. have been mild and all patients have recovered without treatment. Swine influenza cannot be transmitted from eating pork or pork products.
The symptoms of swine flu in people appear to be similar to the symptoms of regular seasonal flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting as well. New Yorkers experiencing severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, should seek health care and treatment. Otherwise, the Health Department recommends at-home care.
Officials are not able to say for certain the number of days a person may be infectious before exhibiting symptoms. However, they are advising that patients should consider themselves contagious for up to seven days following onset of illness. Those who are ill for more than seven days should be considered contagious until symptoms are resolved. The duration of this particular strain has been short, between three and four days.
The most effective way to lower the risk of influenza transmission is for people with symptoms to stay home. All New Yorkers should cover their mouths when they cough. Additional precautions:
*Cover your cough and sneeze
*Wash hands frequently
*Stay at home from work or school if you exhibit influenza-like symptoms
There are 73 confirmed cases of swine flu in New York, all of them connected to travel to Mexico or infection through someone who had been in Mexico. The confirmed cases are all children, young adults and adults, and all cases have been mild. Only one person has been hospitalized due to that individual's high risk of complications for influenza due to underlying illness. All other cases are being treated at home with over-the-counter medications, like those used for seasonal flu.
The New York City Department of Health/Mental Health (NYCDOH/MH) is currently examining several cases that may not be directly connected to someone who has been to Mexico. If this is true, it would indicate a shift to "community transmission," and the recommendations as to how to treat those who become ill will change.
The World Health Organization’s guidelines classify the current situation as “Level 5 of a Pandemic Alert” period, which is the final level preceding a full blown “Pandemic” phase. In the last century, there were three Pandemics. Two of them, the 1957 and 1968 pandemics, caused "mild" influenza; the 1918 strain was very severe.
For facts about influenza, and more information about swine flu, please visit the websites of the New York City Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here are some links to specific information: