Doctors say there isn’t any reason to panic about the novel H1N1 flu outbreak.
“It is something that we should be preparing for. It is not something we should be panicking about,” said John Goldman, MD, a Harrisburg infectious disease specialist.
“The severity mimics what we see with seasonal flu. Unfortunately, there are some people that will have bad outcomes with seasonal flu,” added Pennsylvania’s acting physician general, Stephen Ostroff, MD.
Avoiding the flu
The flu—including this new strain—can be transmitted from one person to another, the doctors explain.
When an infected person coughs or sneezes, respiratory secretions are expelled. Other people may inhale these small droplets or might touch a surface, such as a doorknob or table, where droplets have landed and then touch their noses or mouths.
There are a few simple things you can do to avoid swine flu, or any flu.
“Washing your hands frequently and not touching your face will make it less likely that you will come in contact with the virus,” Dr. Goldman said. “Also, doing the things that your mother told you to do—getting enough rest, don’t smoke, don’t drink too much. It makes you a less susceptible host.”
“Wash hands frequently and carefully use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. Anyone who has a respiratory illness should cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing, dispense of the tissue, and then their wash hands,” adds Margaret Hessen, MD, a Delaware County infectious disease specialist.
Symptoms of the flu
Symptoms of the swine flu mirror the symptoms of the seasonal flu and include:
- Muscle aches
- Dry cough
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Occasional gastrointestinal problems, like diarrhea
At this time of the year, most people who test positive for influenza will have swine flu, Dr. Ostroff said.
Drs. Hessen and Goldman advise anyone with these symptoms to see a physician. Don’t go to the emergency room unless you are afraid for your health and are struggling to breathe or feel excessively dizzy, Dr. Goldman said.
Anyone who is suspected of having swine flu should isolate themselves in their homes for seven days after the onset of symptoms or 24 hours after symptoms end, whichever is longer.
Other members of the household should be careful of exposure to the infected person and be diligent about handwashing, Dr. Hessen said.
- » Where to Find Accurate Information on Swine Flu
As the H1N1 (swine) flu outbreak spreads, so does misinformation. Here are some resources that you can trust.