Preventing, catching, and treating H1N1

April 30, 2009 8:42:27 PM PDT
Doctors are learning, as in many of the common flu viruses, it is easily transmitted from person to person, which is why there is an emphasis on hygiene and prevention. "Those patients who are having shortness of breath, respiratory distress, respiratory problems, these are the ones who truly need medical attention," Dr. Martin Topiel of the Mantua Medical Center said.

Those cases will require hospitalization, but if you have the milder form, common cold symptoms, fever, aches, sore throat, mild cough, still consult with your health care provider and avoid others to avoid spread of the disease.

"They should stay home for 7 days after the symptoms have started so that there's no spread or contagiousness to other people," Dr. Topiel said.

Scientists are learning that the genetic makeup of this virus hitting the U.S. is missing an important amino acid that makes it less deadly than what was being seen in Mexico.

"We're watching that very closely, we don't yet know why it seems to be acting differently north of the Rio Grande versus south of the Rio Grande," Dr. Rob Betteker of Temple University said.

Of course, flu viruses are known to be notoriously unpredictable, meaning they could mutate either into something less harmful or something more deadly.

"That's what the concern is, what we know is that, we can expect the unexpected," Dr. Topiel said.

Early on, parallels between the 1918 killer flu and the swine flu were being drawn. Both are H1N1 strains. Both cropped up at the tail end of the flu season. When the 1918 flu first appeared in March hitting soldiers in Kansas, it seemed rather benign and went largely unnoticed. It wasn't until it reappeared in the fall, the so-called second wave, that it was noticed. But by then, hundreds of thousands of people, many of them in Philadelphia were dying.

"Frequently, a second wave may be more difficult with that virus because the virus has learned how to become more aggressive within the host," Dr. Topiel said.

The question is, are health officials overreacting?

"We just don't know and so we're preparing for the worst and hoping for the best," Dr. Betteker said.

And so, all those preventive measures like washing your hands frequently and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, which may seem silly to some, are the main things that are going to help us, doctors say.

If you do come in contact with an infected person, it could take up to 3 days for it to manifest in you.

RELATED INFORMATION:

FAQs about swine flu
Additional swine flu resources
Transcript of 6abc.com's swine flu chat with local experts

RELATED LINKS:

CDC Swine Flu site
World Health Organization

RELATED INTERACTIVE:

Swine flu cases around the world

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