What is swine flu and what are the symptoms
What is swine flu?
Swine flu is a strain of flu, which can be serious for some people in at-risk groups. In the past, swine flu outbreaks mainly affected people who had direct contact with pigs. In recent flu seasons, swine flu has spread from person to person. The official name for it is ‘novel influenza A (H1N1).
What's the difference between swine flu and seasonal flu?
Two years ago, the swine flu outbreak was treated separately from the normal seasonal flu. Last year, for many people, swine flu was the strain of flu they got, so in effect was the seasonal flu. Swine flu protection is now built in to the seasonal flu jab or vaccination.
What are flu symptoms?
The symptoms of flu are a high temperature (over 38C) and at least two of the following:
- Widespread muscle and joint aches
- A cough
- Blocked or runny nose
- Sore throat
- Watery diarrhoea
- Cannot stop crying (only children)
If you suspect you have swine flu seek medical advice if:
- You have a serious underlying illness
- You are pregnant
- You have a sick child under one year of age
- Your condition suddenly gets much worse
- Your condition is still getting worse after seven days (five for a child)
Who is a priority for flu vaccination?
The priority groups are reviewed each year in light of evidence on the virulence and severity of current flu strains. For example, pregnant women are now offered seasonal flu jabs.
Certain groups are at particularly high risk of severe disease if they get the flu:
- Front line health and social care workers
- Pregnant women
- Young children under five
- Elderly people, aged 65 or over
- People with chronic heart disease
- People with HIV infection
- People with chronic diseases: lung, kidney, liver, neurological conditions and diabetes
- People taking immune-suppressing drugs, such as cancer chemotherapy or anti-rejection drugs for transplants and who are immunosuppressed for other reasons
People in these groups should seek medical advice as soon as they get flu symptoms.
If I think I have flu, what should I do?
Unless you are in an at-risk group, treat your flu symptoms at home. Continue to practise good hygiene and follow the Department of Health's advice:
- Maintain good basic hygiene; for example wash hands frequently with soap and water to reduce the spread of the virus from your hands to your face or to other people. Alcohol hand-rubs are a good alternative if water is not available
- Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, using a tissue when possible
- Dispose of used tissues promptly and carefully
- Clean hard surfaces (eg door handles) frequently using a normal cleaning product
- Make sure children follow this advice
How does flu spread? Is it airborne?
Flu viruses are made up of tiny particles that can be spread through the droplets that come out of your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.