I'm sure everyone is now aware of the swine flu cases that have started in Mexico and have now spread worldwide. I thought a few words about the flu, what it is, and what to do may be helpful.
Swine flu, Infuenza A or B, or any of the viruses in this class cause the same general symptoms. Flu is primarily a respiratory disease. That means it focuses on the lungs. Coughing, wheezing, gurgling, raspy breathing and shortness of breath are all symptoms. Many with the flu have trouble lying flat because they get short of breath and do much better in a recliner. Vomiting and diarrhea, commonly also referred to as the flu, isn't really. That is a GI infection and is another virus. Frequent calls to the clinic involve those symptoms and many become convinced they have the flu. High temps are also common. Up to 101 to 1102.5 and higher are common with chills and shakes. Sweats are part of this too. Muscle aches aka myalgia are very common and quite intense. The aches make moving a real chore. The flu shot this year didn't include the swine flu-this wasn't expected. So far it seems that we need to focus on those who were in Mexico within a specific time period and would fit the incubation period for this virus.
Complicating this is a virus that has been going around now for a about a month that isn't the flu, but has very similar symptoms-aches, high fevers, and fatigue. Though there is a cough with this one it isn't as bad as the regular flu. We have been seeing this in the clinic for the last month in children and adults. Antibiotics are useless against this and are only given if a secondary infection comes up that's bacterial. If we can determine you have the flu with our testing, you and your family would most likely be given tamiflu to take twice a day for 5 days. It's in short supply now so it should be reserved for true flu cases.
What can you do otherwise? Treat the symptoms. The aches and the temperature respond well to ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetominphen. You need to keep as well hydrated as you can. With a fever you burn off fluids fast. The more dehydrated you are the worse you will feel. If it gets too bad you'll end up at the hospital.
We have been asking people to call rather than come in if you are suspicious of having flu. Why? Exposure and contamination issues. You might be the most popular person in the waiting room if you come in coughing and expose people. We have to glove and gown in a room that has to be decontaminated after the exam. That is a lot of work and takes a lot of time. Right now the test for the swine flu is going to the state lab, and this is unusual. It takes longer to get a result from them. The result is more important for epidemiological reasons as the treatment is the same for all the flus.