- Swine Flu (H1N1) is a viral infection of the nose, throat, trachea, and bronchi
- You think your child has Swine Flu because other family members have it
- You think your child has Swine Flu and it's prevalent in the community
Symptoms of Swine Flu:
- The symptoms of Swine Flu are the same as those seen with regular, seasonal influenza
- The main symptoms are fever, cough, sore throat and runny nose
- FEVER must be present to make this diagnosis (CDC)
- Other common symptoms are muscle pain, headache and fatigue
- Some people also have vomiting and diarrhea, but never as the only symptom
Diagnosis: How to Know Your Child Has Swine Flu (H1N1 Flu)
If Swine Flu (H1N1 Flu) is widespread in your community and your child has Swine Flu symptoms with a fever, then he or she probably has Swine Flu. You don't need to get any special tests. You should call your doctor if your child is HIGH-RISK for complications of the flu (see the following list). For LOW-RISK children, you don't need to call or see your child's doctor, unless your child develops a possible complication of the flu. (see the "When to Call Your Doctor" section).
HIGH-RISK Children for Complications From Swine Flu (CDC)
Children are considered HIGH-RISK for complications if they have any of the following conditions:
- Lung disease (such as asthma)
- Heart disease (such as a congenital heart disease)
- Cancer or weak immune system conditions
- Diabetes, sickle cell disease, OR kidney disease
- Diseases requiring long-term aspirin therapy
- Healthy children under 2 years old are also considered HIGH-RISK (CDC: September 2009)
- Note: All other children are referred to as LOW-RISK
Swine Flu (H1N1 Flu): General Information
- Cause: The H1N1 virus is a combination virus that contains genes from swine flu, avian flu and human flu. Cases of swine flu in humans were first detected in Mexico during March 2009. An outbreak of swine flu in humans occurred in the U.S. and Canada in April 2009. By June 2009, the WHO declared it a global pandemic.
- Severity of Symptoms: Symptoms of swine flu can be mild to severe, just as with regular human flu. Thus far in the US and Canada, the symptoms have generally been mild to moderate.
- Transmission: The swine flu virus is spread via airborne droplets, from sneezing and coughing, just like other influenza viruses. It also can be transmitted by hands contaminated with secretions. It no longer has anything to do with pigs; it is only spread person-to-person. Swine flu is NOT transmitted by eating pork.
- Expected Course: Like regular flu, the fever lasts 2-3 days, the runny/congested nose 1-2 weeks and the cough 2-3 weeks. With some flu viruses, the fever lasts 4 or 5 days.
- Contagious Period: A person is contagious for 1 day prior to and for 7 days after the onset of symptoms (e.g., the fever and cough)
- Incubation Period: After exposure, a person will come down with swine flu symptoms in 4 to 6 days (5 days on the average). An outer limit rarely could be 7 days. This virus has a longer incubation period than seasonal flu (1 to 3 days).
- Attack Rate: The chance of getting swine flu depends on the degree of exposure and is always higher for household contacts. While the attack rate is unknown for this virus, it should be high (20-30%) because there is no natural immunity to swine flu viruses.
- Diagnostic Test: At this time, testing is mainly indicated for patients with severe disease (CDC, May 2009). Accurate testing takes 2 or 3 days.
- Treatment: See below.
- Prevention: Prevention measures include avoiding sick people and crowds (social distancing). Hand washing is very important. A complete list of preventive tips is available on the CDC website.
- Vaccine: No vaccine is currently available to prevent Swine Flu. The vaccine should become available in late fall 2009. The yearly seasonal flu vaccine offers no protection against Swine Flu.
Complications of Swine Flu
Children who develop the following complications need to be seen by their doctor:
- Ear infections and sinus infections occur in 10% of children
- Pneumonia: both viral and secondary bacterial (mainly in HIGH-RISK children)
- Influenza-induced flare-ups in those with asthma
- Dehydration, often due to a severe sore throat that limits fluid intake
- Muscle pains (viral myositis) in the legs can be severe and cause limping or refusal to walk
Prescription Antiviral Drugs for Swine Flu
- For optimal results, antiviral drugs (such as Tamiflu) should be started within 48 hours of the start of flu symptoms. They can be started later in some cases.
- The CDC recommends they be used for: 1) any patient with severe symptoms AND 2) for all HIGH-RISK children (see that list) with any flu symptoms.
- The CDC doesn't recommend antiviral drugs for LOW-RISK children with mild or moderate Swine Flu illness.
- Their benefits are limited: they usually reduce the time your child is sick by 1 to 1.5 days. They reduce the symptoms, but do not cure the disease.
- Side effects: Vomiting in 10% of children.
Return to School
- If you or your child get sick with Swine Flu, the CDC recommends that you stay home from work, school or child care until at least 24 hours after the fever is gone (CDC: August 2009).
Internet Resources For U.S.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United States (CDC)
- For most up to date information, visit CDC's Swine Flu web site at: http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu
If not, see these topics
- Seasonal Influenza suspected, See INFLUENZA
- Swine Flu exposure (Close Contact), but NO symptoms, See SWINE FLU (H1N1 FLU) EXPOSURE
- Cough and NO exposure (Close Contact) OR cough begins over 7 days after Swine Flu exposure, See COUGH
- Cold symptoms and NO exposure (Close Contact) OR cold begins over 7 days after Swine Flu exposure, See COLDS
- Sore throat and NO exposure (Close Contact) OR sore throat begins over 7 days after Swine Flu exposure, See SORE THROAT
- Influenza vaccine reaction suspected, See IMMUNIZATION REACTIONS