Swine Flu

What you need to know about preventing and treating H1N1 in Prague

On October 22, 2009, the Czech Republic reported its first victim of H1N1 (swine flu) -- a 31-year-old woman in Karlovy Vary.

As of November 5, 2009, 394 suspected swine flu cases had been reported across the country, of which 43 were confirmed as H1N1.

Although there's no need to panic, it makes sense to learn more about the influenza pandemic as it spreads across the country:

What is H1N1?

H1N1, also known as "swine flu," is a new subtype of the seasonal influenza virus. Because it's new, we have no immunity, so more people are at risk of catching it than of catching more established strains of flu.

How do I catch swine flu?

H1N1 spreads in the same way as seasonal flu, mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing. You can also catch the illness if you come into contact with saliva or secretions left on a surface or other object by an infected person, which you then transfer to your nose or mouth.

What can I do to avoid swine flu?

• Ensure that everyone in your household/workplace washes their hands regularly with soap and water

• Clean surfaces regularly to get rid of germs

• Use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and put them in the bin as soon as possible

• Avoid sharing cutlery, cups and glasses, and any other object that may have been in contact with saliva or secretions

• Sleep well, eat healthily, drink plenty of water, exercise and avoid alcohol and tobacco

The Czech Health Ministry also advises staying at least one meter away from people with flu-like symptoms and avoiding embracing, kissing or shaking hands when you greet people.

What are the symptoms?

People who've caught swine flu usually have a fever and at least two of these symptoms:

• Cough

• Sore throat

• Runny or stuffy nose

• Aching muscles

• Headache

• Chills

• Fatigue

• Diarrhea and vomiting

Typically, flu lasts two-to-four days, although it could be a week before you get over your cough and you could continue feeling weak for several weeks after becoming ill.

Is swine flu a serious illness?

Normally, it isn't but some groups are more at risk of becoming seriously ill than others. These include people with the following medical conditions:

• Chronic (long-term) lung disease, including people who have had drug treatment for asthma within the past three years

• Chronic heart disease

• Chronic kidney disease

• Chronic liver disease

• Chronic neurological disease, including motor neurone diseases and multiple sclerosis

• Suppressed immune systems, whether caused by disease or treatment

• Diabetes

Also at particular risk are:

• Pregnant women

• Elderly people

• Young children

What should I do if I catch swine flu?

As with seasonal flu, the symptoms of swine flu can be relieved with over-the-counter cold medicines.

You're also advised to stay at home, rest and drink plenty of fluids.

Antiviral drugs can be effective but these are only recommended for high-risk groups (see above).

Because swine flu is caused by a virus, antibiotics aren't effective.

Is there a vaccination against swine flu?

A vaccination against H1N1 flu is expected to be available before the end of 2009.

In the Czech Republic, the priority is to vaccinate doctors and other healthcare workers, vital public servants such as firefighters and police officers, and people with chronic diseases.

USEFUL LINKS
World Health Organization (United Nations)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USA)
National Health Service (UK)
Czech Health Ministry -- Czech Only

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