News From Best Health: What's The Latest Information On Swine Flu
December 19, 2017
There's been a lot of concern about the spread of swine flu, a new strain of flu virus which emerged in 2009. Swine flu is one of the major strains of flu around this winter. While for most people it is an unpleasant but mild illness, it can be serious. It has already caused a number of deaths this year.
However, there are treatments that can help with symptoms. And there are things you can do to help protect yourself from catching the virus.
Best Health, produced by the BMJ Group, has brought together the latest research about swine flu and weighed up the evidence about how to prevent and treat it. Here's what it says:
-- The seasonal flu vaccine for 2010/2011 protects against swine flu and other types of seasonal flu and is unlikely to cause any serious side effects.
-- People with chronic diseases (like asthma or heart disease), people over 65, and pregnant women are all being encouraged to get vaccinated because they are more at risk of complications from flu.
-- Treatments that are likely to work if you have swine flu are the antiviral medicines oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). These medicines are not a cure for flu, but they may cut the time you are ill by about one day and you may be less likely to get complications from flu, such as pneumonia, although the evidence about this is not clear.
-- If you're pregnant and you suspect you have flu, you should call your doctor immediately. It's important for pregnant women with swine flu to start taking antiviral medicines as soon as possible.
-- Breastfeeding will help protect your baby against the virus, so you should carry on breastfeeding if you can, even if you get sick. You can continue to breastfeed while taking antiviral medicines.
-- For most children, symptoms of swine flu are similar to those in adults, and the disease is not likely to be severe. Children can also take antiviral medicines, on the advice of a doctor.
-- The best way to avoid catching swine flu (or any other type of cold or flu) is to wash your hands regularly with soap and hot water. Other sensible hygiene measures to help prevent the spread of swine flu are:
- Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, using a tissue where possible
- Dispose of used tissues quickly and sensibly
- Clean regularly-touched hard surfaces (e.g. door handles and kitchen surfaces) frequently, using normal cleaning products
- Make sure your children follow these hygiene rules
-- There is no evidence that wearing masks on the street, or while going about your daily business, will protect you against swine flu. Most masks are designed to stop you from passing on the germs you breathe out, not to stop germs getting in. Masks might be helpful if you have swine flu, to avoid giving it to people who are caring for you, or if you are caring for someone at home with swine flu.
Source: British Medical Journal
View drug information on Relenza; Tamiflu capsule.