According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the novel H1N1 virus is a re-assortment of four strains of the influenza A virus: one found in humans, one found in birds and two found in pigs (hence, the phrase “swine flu”). Scientifically, influenza A virus strains are categorized according to two proteins found on the surface of the virus: hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N).
Illnesses were first reported in Mexico and the United States last spring. All 50 states and more than 180 countries have reported cases. H1N1 is spread by airborne particles from coughs or sneezes, and can also be spread by touching an infected surface and then touching your nose and mouth. Symptoms are similar to seasonal influenza and include:
- Sore throat
- Body aches
The CDC recommends that people showing signs of influenza avoid large groups and stay home from work.
“Rest, fluids and anti-fever medications are the best you can do for yourself anyway,” said Dr. Bradley Kirchner, Brookfield-based West Brook Clinic pediatrics, Children Medical Groups.
For most people, once symptoms develop, they need not call or visit their physician, Kirchner said.
“H1N1 type A influenza has become so widespread that it is almost certain that if any individual experiences those symptoms, it is probably H1N1 influenza,” he said. “Unless your symptoms aren’t acting like you expect them to act, or you are an individual at risk for complications, there is really no need to come in for a diagnosis.”
At-risk people include pregnant women, children younger than age five (especially under age two), and individuals with underlying chronic medical conditions, including asthma, diabetes, other respiratory conditions or medical and assisted living professionals.