Sunday, May 03, 2009

Swine Flu

Dear Lisa,

Why are so many people making such a big deal about the Swine Flu? It's all they talk about in the news. Not that many people died from it so far, so why are so many people worried? My son is coughing a little and he has allergies, do I need to keep him home from school just because he has a cough?

"What's the Big Deal?"

Dear "What's the Big Deal?"

The Swine Flu is a new virus that people do not have immunity to. The reason why so many people are making a big deal is, without immunity, some people have the potential for becoming very ill. The Swine Flu virus has been renamed the Influenza A H1N1 Flu because scientists discovered that the microorganism contains swine flu genes as well as bird genes and human flu genes. Usually flu viruses with animal genes do not spread from person to person. H1N1 Flu is spreading from person to person. There are confirmed cases in 30 states in the U.S. and 18 countries. The reason for the great concern is because the last great flu pandemic in 1918 was caused by a flu which contained bird flu genes. That flu virus containing bird flu genes also passed from person to person.

You are correct, there have not been a high number of deaths so far from H1N1 Flu. Up to this point there have been 20 deaths from the H1N1 Flu, which is small compared to the thousands of deaths that occur each year from the seasonal flu virus. Even a small number of deaths is devastating to the families and communities involved, so yes , it is a big deal. Yes, it is also true that most of the cases of the H1N1 Flu have been mild. The concern is that flu viruses can mutate and change into a more virulent strain. If that was to occur, then more serious illnesses may result.

In regards to your son, if he only has a cough from his allergies, there should be no reason why you cannot send him to school as long as his allergies are under control and he is not having an exacerbation of Asthma. The symptoms of the H1NI Flu virus include fever, body aches, fatigue, headache, respiratory symptoms, sore throat, vomiting and diarrhea. If your son has other symptoms besides a cough or if he is too young to describe his symptoms and is not acting normally, you should contact your health care provider for an evaluation.

For More Information about H1N1 Flu:

Track Outbreaks of H1N1 Flu

H1N1 Flu Facts

How to Care for a Person with H1N1 Flu

Information in Spanish

(1)Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu). Available at Accessed May 3, 2009.

Lisa-ann Kelly R.N., P.N.P.,C.
Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Pediatric Advice Updated Daily