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Updated: 5/5/2020
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  • Information on the diseaseSwine flu is the common name for a type of influenza (flu)caused by a strain of the influenza virus known as the H1N1 virus. H1N1 wasfirst identified in Mexico in 2009 and was known at the time as Mexican flu.Over time, it came to be known as swine flu because the virus closely resemblesknown influenza viruses that cause illness in pigs. Since 2009, swine flu hasspread rapidly from country to country. People became easily infected becauseit was a new type of flu virus that few people were immune to.
  • The 2009–2010 pandemic proved to be relatively mild and was not as serious as originally thought. A mortality rate of up to 6% was predicted, which could have led to as many as 30 000 deaths in the United Kingdom alone. However, the actual death rate was far smaller than this – 138 people died as a direct result of the flu virus from an estimated 540 000 cases. Most of these cases were among the very elderly, the very young, and people with a pre-existing health condition (e.g., cancer) that had already weakened their immune systems.On 10 August 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the pandemic officially over.
  • The symptoms of swine flu are similar to those of other types of flu. These include:• raised body temperature (38ºC or above)• fatigue and tiredness• aching joints and muscles• headache.
  • An outbreak of any disease is known as an epidemic. Epidemics that span different countries are known as pandemics. In the winter of 2009–2010, swine flu cases were detected as far apart as the USA and India. This outbreak was therefore classified as a pandemic.
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  • TreatmentMost people recover from swine flu within a week by resting at home. No special treatments are usually needed. Patients are advised to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, to take painkillers such as paracetamol, and to take anti inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.Patients who do not respond to this treatment may be prescribed antiviral medications that can help the body to fight the viral infection and/or antibiotic drugs to treat any secondary bacterial infections, such as pneumonia.Preventing the spread of swine fluPeople become infected with swine flu through droplet infection, usually from an infected person coughing or sneezing nearby. This can spread the droplets over around 1 metre. The virus can then survive for up to 24 hours on the surface on which it lands. If a person then touches these surfaces and subsequently places their hands near their mouth or nose, infection can occur.Healthcare professionals, pregnant women, anyone aged 65 and over, children, and adults with an underlying health condition are now offered a vaccine against three types of flu, including swine flu, by means of the ‘flu jab’. This offers protection to those most likely to become infected or who are likely to become seriously ill from the virus.
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