We’re already seeing some cases of influenza in the area and the swine flu is expected make a comeback in the next couple of months. Actually, the CDC has requested that we use the technical name of H1N1 virus to describe the swine flu since some people mistakenly believe that they can get the disease from being around pigs and eating bacon or other pork products.

Most of the time, H1N1 symptoms are relatively mild, including a low-grade fever, cough and sore throat. Sometimes H1N1 may just appear to be a cold, causing only nasal congestion or runny nose without a fever. Occasionally severe disease also has been reported where patients develop headaches, body aches, trouble breathing, vomiting or diarrhea.

Testing for H1N1 initially involves a nasal swab to determine whether or not influenza is present. If no influenza is present, then the patient does not have any type of influenza. If testing shows that a patient has Influenza B, H1N1 virus is unlikely. If the patient has Influenza A, the patient may have H1N1 influenza, but may also have many of the other strains of Influenza A – as are seen with seasonal influenza outbreaks. If the Influenza A is positive and H1N1 virus is suspected, a nasopharyngeal wash can be sent to the state department of health for testing, but currently Illinois is recommending testing only for hospitalized patients with severe respiratory symptoms and fever.

The good news is that a vaccine is coming. Even better news is that the vaccine will be provided by state and county health departments at NO COST. You can only be charged an “administration fee” that covers the doctor’s costs in storing the vaccine and giving you the vaccine – not a charge for the vaccine itself. I’m on the list of providers who will hopefully receive vaccine once it begins shipping.
The vaccine will be given to priority groups first, including pregnant women, household contacts of infants less than 6 months old, and health care workers.
An explanation of the distribution process for vaccines can be found here.

The best way to keep from getting sick is to practice what the IDPH calls the “Three Cs” –
Clean – properly wash your hands frequently – either with soap and water or alcohol-based cleansers
Cover – cover your cough and sneeze by coughing into your forearm
Contain – contain your germs by staying home if you are sick

For more information about the H1N1 virus, go to the Illinois Department of Public Health’s H1N1 Flu web site or the Centers for Disease Control H1N1 Flu web site.