By Dr. Cristina Mitchell
Hillside Family and Community Medicine
Swine flu (H1N1) is a type of influenza virus that causes a respiratory illness that can be spread between people.Â The symptoms include fever, chills, body aches, cough, sore throat, headache, and occasionally vomiting and diarrhea.Â Thus far, the illness has been mild in the vast majority of US cases. Currently, there are 3 suspected cases of swine flu in RI but none have been confirmed.Â It is transmitted through coughs and sneezes, and other contact with infected respiratory secretions (e.g. if you touch something someone just coughed on), so it is important to take basic precautions to stay healthy.
- frequent handwashing with soap and water or an alcohol based gel
- coughing into your elbow or sleeve
- staying home (or keeping kids home) when you are sick
The CDC has not recommended avoiding air or train travel at this point. Also, swine flu is not transmitted through the consumption or pork or pork products so these are safe to eat.
There is no recommendation for widespread screening, even if you’ve been to Mexico or another area with confirmed swine flu.Â Â Â If you are experiencing an influenza-like illness,Â contact your doctor.Â In Rhode Island, doctors offices and ERs have swineflu test kits but these will only be used if there is a high suspicion of swine flu and after a discussion with the Department of Health.Â Â Â Also, antiviral medications are not being prescribed to prevent swine flu in the general population.Â The CDC recommends that US travellers avoid all nonessential travel to Mexico.Â They are not recommending that other air or train travel be avoided.
Dr. Cristina Mitchell is a family doctor at Hillside Family and Community Medicine and contributor writer for Kidoinfo. She shares her knowledge and expertise related to health issues for kids.