The Doctor Is In
Gail Hacker, MD
Swine Flu (2009 H1N1 influenza) update:
Today's headlines state that a public health emergency has been declared due to swine flu. Anticipating a flood of questions, I have tried to address a few of them here.
1. What is swine flu?
Swine flu is an influenza virus that typically infects pigs and pig handlers. It is really called H1N1 influenza. It causes the same symptoms that the influenza virus that circulates every year causes: fever (>100.5), cough, sore throat, runny nose, and muscle aches present.
2. Why all the concern then?
The CDC gets concerned when a virus that doesn't usually spread from one human to another becomes able to do so. This is the case with the current H1N1 flu outbreak. There have been 60 cases in the US so far. There has been one death, a toddler in Texas. Children and older adults are the most susceptible to complications from any influenza virus.
3. What do I do if I think I have H1N1 flu?
DO NOT walk in to our waiting area and just hang out waiting to be seen. If you have the above symptoms (at least 2-3, including a fever, NOT just a sore throat or a runny nose) AND you have been to an area where the swine flu has been identified (New York, Mexico, Canada, California, or close by), call and let us know. We will ask some questions to see if you need to be seen or refer you to the health department. If we determine that it is best for you to come in, we will ask you to pick up a respiratory mask as soon as you come to the clinic and place you in an isolation room so you don't take a chance of spreading the virus to others in the waiting area or to our staff.
4. Use the same precautions we always recommend:
Wash your hands frequently or use hand santizer, cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with your arm NOT YOUR HAND, eat well, drink fluids, and STAY HOME if you feel ill.
5. Where can I get more information?
The Centers for Disease Control has some excellent information including updates on the numbers of people infected and where they are. The web site is: www.cdc.gov/swineflu/swineflu_you.htm
Supporting you in good health,
Gail Hacker, MD