Swine Flu is on the rise – How to be prepared


There has been a recent increase in the number of people being diagnosed with Swine Flu and the admission rates to hospital have dramatically risen since the New Year. On the week when 14 people are in isolation at Leicester Royal Infirmary, diagnosed with the deadly Swine Flu, Eileen Fegan, Clinical Director at Solihull Health Check Clinic, talks about what Swine Flu is, how to identify it and more importantly, how to manage it.

What is it?

The virus that causes Swine Flu was first identified in April 2009 in Mexico and at that time, was referred to as Mexican Flu, until it was eventually redefined as Swine Flu, because the virus resembles the influenza that affects pigs. In 2009, the Swine Flu that hit the UK was declared a  pandemic, which fortunately proved to be relatively mild and was not as serious as previously predicted. Most cases reported in the UK in 2009/2010 were mild, however, a small number of cases resulted in serious illness and even death, affecting mainly the elderly, the very young, pregnant women and people with immunosuppressed conditions, such as cancer, that had already weakened their immune systems.
Eventually on August 10th 2010, the World Health Organization  declared the pandemic was officially over.

How to prevent the spread of the virus

Swine Flu is spread very easily and in exactly the same way as the common cold, with coughing and sneezing spreading the virus in droplets of saliva and sputum. It can then be breathed in by unsuspecting victims.

The virus that transmits Swine flu from one person to another, is airborne and therefore very contagious, as it is transferred by inhaling or breathing in droplets in the air, containing the virus after people sneeze or cough. It is extremely easy to catch, if people do not use tissues to cough or sneeze into disposable tissues. When coughing or sneezing, the virus can spread up to 3 feet and when it lands on surfaces, can survive for up to 24 hours. Anyone who touches surfaces affected by the virus, can contract and spread the virus ie. Door handles, tables, chairs, money, remote controls. The newest swine flu virus that has caused swine flu is called influenza A H3N2v, that began as an outbreak in 2011.

The best way to prevent the spread of Swine Flu is to maintain strict hand washing techniques and always throw used hankies/tissues in the bin immediately after use. Do not re-use used tissues. Also, using an anti-bacterial surface cleaner, to clean affected surfaces around your home, will help prevent spreading the virus.

For those with medical conditions, including asthma, emphysema and conditions that cause low immune systems, having an annual flu jab can help prevent contracting the virus.

How to treat Swine Flu

Swine flu affects both pigs and humans and the symptoms include a barking cough, runny nose, lack of appetite and exhaustion. This respiratory disease can last between one and two weeks and the best way to treat it is as follows;

Stay at home and rest. Do not go to work or socialise.
Keep warm and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
If you have a high temperature, take  1g of paracetamol or  200mgs of Ibuprofen,  to lower a high temperature and relieve aches.
Always sneeze or cough into disposable hankies (not cotton handkerchiefs) and dispose of immediately, into a rubbish bin.

If further treatment is needed or complications develop, medication is available to treat flu caused by the virus. This includes:

antiviral medications – Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and Zanamivir (Relenza) which help relieve symptoms and reduce the risk of serious complications
Antibiotics can be prescribed to combat bacterial infections such as pneumonia, which may occur as a complication of influenza.

There is a great deal of information at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines on antivirals for the treatment of flu.  For a complete Health Check, we advise everyone who is concerned about their health to contact us at Solihull Health Check Clinic to arrange your private consultation. Telephone us on 0121 745 7400 and go to www.solihullhealthcheckclinic.co.uk, to see our award winning Health Clinic.