Thursday, July 30, 2009
Swine flu is a respiratory disease which infects pigs. Caused by influenza type A virus, there are regular outbreaks among herds of pigs, where the disease causes high levels of illness but is rarely fatal.
It tends to spread in autumn and winter but can circulate all year round. There are many different types of swine flu and like human flu, the virus is constantly changing. Swine flu does not normally infect humans, but when the infection does occur, it can grow to huge proportions because humans can easily pass the infection to other humans – mostly through coughing and sneezing openly.
The outbreak in Mexico seems to involve a new type of swine flu that contains DNA that is typically found in avian and human viruses. This swine flu virus is genetically different from the fully human H1N1 seasonal influenza virus that has been circulating globally for the past few years. It contains DNA that is typical to avian, swine and human viruses, including elements from European and Asian swine viruses.
As of today, there is no swine flu vaccine that can specifically protect against swine flu, but the present antiviral drugs are do provide some level of protection – both, Tamiflu and Relenza, seem effective against the new strain. Both the drugs must be taken early, within a few days of the onset of symptoms, to be most effective.
What are the symptoms?
The swine flu symptoms are broadly the same as those of ordinary flu, but may be more severe and cause more serious complications. The typical swine flu symptoms are:
4. Aching muscles
5. Limb or joint pain
6. Diarrhoea or stomach upset
7. Sore throat
8. Runny nose
9. Loss of appetite
12. Nasal congestion
Other swine flu symptoms reported with swine influenza A virus infection include vomiting, fatigue, and dyspnea. Conjunctivitis is rare, but has been reported. Severe diseases include pneumonia and respiratory failure. In addition, fatal outcomes have also been reported with swine influenza A virus infection.
However, if you have any of these symptoms but a flu pandemic has not been announced, you could have seasonal flu.
For now, while experts continue to investigate the current human swine flu cases, parents should simply call their doctor if their kids have swine flu symptoms, especially if they live in an area where swine flu cases are already being reported.
Can swine flu be treated with drugs?
Fortunately, swine flu is being treated with the available antiviral drugs. Work to manufacture specific swine flu vaccination is underway.
As with the regular seasonal flu, antiviral flu medications, including Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir), are available to prevent and treat swine flu. The H1N1 virus is resistant to older medications, but is still sensitive to oseltamivir and zanamivir.
Both, oseltamivir and zanamivir work best when they are started within 48 hours of developing swine flu symptoms. According to the CDC, these flu medications can also be started after 48 hours, especially if a patient is hospitalized or is at high risk to develop complications from the flu.
Swine flu drug treatment for kids:
Although Tamiflu (oseltamivir) is available in syrup form, it has never been approved for use in children under the age of 12 months. Fortunately, the FDA has recently approved the use of oseltamivir for infants under an Emergency Use Authorization.
Oseltamivir dosing for swine flu treatment in infants includes:
a. 12 mg twice daily for 5 days in infants under 3 months old
b. 20 mg twice daily for 5 days in infants 3 to 5 months old
c. 25 mg twice daily for 5 days in infants 6 to 11 months old
Dosing of oseltamivir for prevention of swine influenza in infants includes:
i) 20 mg once daily for 10 days in infants 3 to 5 months old
ii) 25 mg once daily for 10 days in infants 6 to 11 months old
However, it is not recommended that infants under 3 months old routinely take oseltamivir for prevention of swine flu.
Children over 12 months of age can take routine dosages of oseltamivir, to prevent and treat swine influenza. However, use of Relenza is only recommended for treating children who are 7 years and over and using it a preventive measure in kids who are 5 years and above.
Swine flu vaccine:
It is estimated that the swine flu vaccine will not be ready until sometime around September to November 2009. The swine flu vaccine, once manufactured, will likely be given out based on specific categories and priority levels and according to the severity of the pandemic.
Tamiflu to treat swine influenza:
Tamiflu is an antiviral prescription drug. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines in pill, liquid or inhaler form, which work actively against the influenza flu viruses, including swine influenza viruses. Oseltamivir can be used to treat swine influenza or to prevent infection with swine flu viruses. But, oseltamivir can only be prescribed by a health care professional.
Four influenza antiviral drugs are approved for use, which include oseltamivir, zanamivir, amantadine and rimantadine. The swine influenza A (H1N1) viruses that have been detected in humans are resistant to amantadine and rimantadine. Therefore, these drugs will not work against the swine influenza viruses. Laboratory testing on the swine influenza A (H1N1) viruses so far indicate that these viruses are vulnerable (sensitive) to oseltamivir and zanamivir.
When infected with the swine influenza virus, oseltamivir can help make the illness milder and make you feel better faster. Moreover, it may also prevent serious influenza complications. Oseltamivir will work best when it is started soon after the onset of the illness. But in hospitalized patients and people at high risk for influenza-related complications, antiviral drug treatment should still be considered after 48 hours of symptom onset.
Oseltamivir an also be used as a preventive measure in people who are not ill, but who have been or may be near a person with swine influenza. Oseltamivir, as a preventive measure, is about 70-90% effective.
CDC also recommends the use of oseltamivir both for treatment and/or prevention of infection with swine influenza viruses. Oseltamivir (Tamiflu ®) is approved to both treat and prevent influenza A virus infection in people one year of age and older.
With.Spl.Thks to various sites.