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Could it be Swine Flu?

Could it be Swine Flu?

March 2014: Over 100 people have been admitted to hospital with swine flu in Queensland already this year - double the number for the same period last year.

85% of influenza notifications in Queensland are H1N1 virus (swine flu). Courier Mail, 12 March, 2014 

Similarly , a swine flu pandemic has been reported in New Zealand, prompting both NZ and Australian health authorities to encourage people to have their flu shots early. International Business Times, 27 March, 2014

What is Swine Flu?

H1N1 Influenza virus is a relatively new strain of Influenza A virus - first detected in Mexico in April 2009. The H1N1 virus spread rapidly around the world and was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation in June 2009. H1N1 is referred to as swine flu because it contains some of the same DNA from influenza strains that infect pigs.

What are the symptoms of swine flu?

The symptoms of swine flu are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu:

  • fever
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny nose
  • body aches
  • headaches
  • chills
  • fatigue

Some people also have diarrhoea and vomiting.

Like the flu which occurs every year, swine flu can spread from person to person via droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can also settle on objects like telephones and door knobs and can then be transferred to the nose, mouth or eyes. As swine flu is a relatively new strain of influenza A, most people haven’t come into contact with it before and are therefore not immune.

There are two main ways to protect yourself and your family from influenza:1

  1. Reducing the likelihood of contact with the virus; and
  2. Having an annual influenza vaccination.

 

1. You can reduce the likelihood of spreading the influenza virus by:

  • Avoiding contact with people who have the flu
  • Protecting yourself and others by washing your hands regularly
  • Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing
  • Using disposable tissues once only then placing them in the bin
  • Staying at home if you have flu-like symptoms.1

 

2. Annual influenza vaccinations

Annual flu vaccinations are recommended for any person aged 6 months or over who wants (or whose carer wants) to be protected against influenza - unless there is a medical reason why they should not be vaccinated.1 The greater number of people who are vaccinated against influenza, the less the risk and economic burden on the community.

Who should be vaccinated?

The Australian Immunisation Handbook recommends influenza vaccination:

  • Children aged 6 months+ who are at risk of complications
  • All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 15 years+
  • People with chronic diseases and compromised immune systems
  • All older Australians 65+ years
  • Pregnant women.

 

References

NCIRS Fact Sheet

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Links

NCIRS

The Australian Immunisation Handbook 10 edition

 

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