The Swine Flu Skinny

Natural Healing and Prevention with Dr. Joseph Russo — By on January 1, 2010 7:00 PM

By Dr. Joseph Russo

As almost everyone in the U.S. has heard, there is a flu virus going around called the H1N1 virus, also known as the Swine Flu or the Influenza-like Illness virus. It has become so news worthy that the Center for Disease Control has a weekly update on its website. Additionally, state health departments are providing guidelines for the prevention and treatment of the virus, as well as providing a means for testing and keeping a record of how many persons were diagnosed with the illness. The mainstream media has also had its hand in the efforts by providing extensive coverage and reminding people that the virus can be very dangerous and can even contribute to a one’s demise.

Microscopic detail of H1N1 virus

Microscopic detail of H1N1 virus

The flu virus was discovered in April 2009 and inappropriately named the “Swine Flu” by some shortsighted researchers who came to the conclusion that the genetic structure of the virus had some similarities to a virus that infects pigs. Little did they know that the nomenclature would cause an incredible misunderstanding concerning the virus and the pork industry. Fueled by media hype, people initially thought that one could contract the virus from eating pork. This is simply not true.

First of all, the H1N1 virus/swine flu virus is a respiratory virus much like the common cold and is transmitted as such. The transmission is via respiratory droplets, which are what come out of your mouth and/or nose when you sneeze or cough. Everybody has respiratory droplets, your lungs create mucus to help them function and a virus can live in this mucus. Yuk!

This is why, and for good reason, all the medical organizations in the U.S. are urging you to cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. Cough or sneeze into your sleeve and wash your hands frequently. All of these practices will help decrease the spread of these nasty respiratory droplets, which may contain the H1N1 virus.

The good news is, according to the CDC’s web page devoted to the Flu update, the incidence of reported H1N1 virus infections is trending downward by the week. This is a good sign; it could mean that the pandemic is coming to an end.

In clinics around America, people have been asking what is the difference between the regular flu and the H1N1 flu? The answer is: not that much. They are both transmitted by those respiratory droplets and the symptoms are very similar. The symptoms are: fever, cough, stuffy nose, headache, body aches, fatigue, and chills. Additionally, the two viruses appear to be lasting from about 2 to 14 days with some exceptions. The H1N1 flu seems to have more fever associated with it and, as an illness, lasts longer that the seasonal flu.

How does one know if they have the H1N1 versus the seasonal flu?
There is a test that can be done to see if you have the Influenza “A” type virus- it is a nasal swab that collects respiratory droplets. The H1N1 is an Influenza A type virus. If you test positive for Influenza A then you could have H1N1. However, the simple “in office” test is not always very accurate. In our clinic, approximately 98% of the people who exhibited the “signs and symptoms” of the H1N1 virus had negative test results. This either means that they did not have the H1N1 or that the testing was not very accurate. In any case, almost all of the diagnoses of H1N1 made by doctors are based on signs and symptoms and not by direct testing.

Patients also ask, “Now that I have been diagnosed with the H1N1 virus, am I contagious?” The answer is most likely yes. According to authoritative sources, a person can transmit the virus one day before symptoms show up and up to 5 to 7 days after the onset of the symptoms. Also, the prevailing thought is that a person is still contagious until their fever has been gone for 24 hours. Once again, there is no hard evidence to support this.

You can hopefully prevent the H1N1 or seasonal flu by getting the respective vaccines. The seasonal flu vaccine is available to anyone who wishes to have it once their doctor gives them the okay. The H1N1 vaccine is more difficult to obtain because there are guidelines issued by the CDC, which identify persons at higher risk, and encourage the vaccines to be provided to those persons first. There is also a slight downside to the vaccines. In my experience, a decent percentage of children 15% to 30% and about 10% of adults became ill within three to five days after receiving the vaccine. The illness consisted of flu-like symptoms, who would have guessed?

If one has been diagnosed with the H1N1 virus, what should they do?
The recommendation is to treat the fever, drink plenty of water, rest, and stay home. There are some antiviral medicines available that doctors are prescribing for very ill patients. These medicines are supposed to help reduce the symptoms and the duration of the illness. In my experience, the difference was not very noticeable.

Last but not least, the CDC does not recommend attending any “Swine Flu” parties. According to the CDC a “Swine Flu” party is a party where several persons diagnosed with the H1N1 virus come in contact with others who have not had exposure to the virus. This is done to transfer the virus and ultimately gain immunity to it. WOWZA! Only in America.

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