Swine Flu Q&A

By Dr. Mary Ann Malloy
|  Wednesday, May 6, 2009  |  Updated 11:51 AM CDT
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Swine Flu Q&A

AP

People with flu symptoms should consult their doctor.

NBC Chicago contributor Dr. Mary Ann Malloy answered these swine flu questions in consultation with Dr. James Allen MD, PhD., of Metro Infectious Disease.  You can post additional questions in the comments section at the bottom of this story, and Dr. Malloy will get to as many as she can.  Note: Dr. Malloy is not responding in the comments section at the bottom of this page. Anyone claiming in the comments section that they are a medical professional or giving medical advice will be blocked from posting.

Treat the below as general guidelines only.  The swine flu situation is changing rapidly, and the extent of the outbreak is not yet known.  For updates, check the CDC's swine flu page


Q: We came back from Mexico April 26. One week ago. I am not feeling well. Headaches, fatigue, sore throat. This started yesterday. Could I still have contracted swine

A: It would be unlikely for this flu to have such a long incubation period. In adults, it's usually a week or less and averages 2 to 4 days. If your fever is over 100.4 F and you are not recovering, it would be wise to call your doctor.

Q: If you get the H1N1 (swine) flu now, does that mean you built up antibodies and won't get it again if it comes back in the fall?

A: Yes. If a person gets the H1N1 flu now, they will be protected by their own antibodies and would not get that flu in the fall.

Q: I am a parent of three children all under the ages of 10. I have seen in our small elementary school alone many infectious diseases (many common childhood colds, strep, etc) but what concerns me is the lack of precautionary measures these schools and/or government agencies are taking. Our government is very vague whether this a severe situation or if this a flu that is another strain. I believe that we deserve more anwers then the vague answers that any health expert may give us in a daily news report. Our government is supposed to protect the American people. As far as I see, the only protection we have is to educate ourselves. The government is going to make this situation very minimal considering the financial downfall of our country. Be very vigilant with your school/local government with this possible epedemic of the swine flu. After all it is our children, family, friends, neighbors that we are protecting.

A: Susie expresses very clearly the frustration we are all feeling as we are faced with H1N1 virus, otherwise known as the Swine Flu. We are just learning about it and the illness it can cause. The initial reaction is to be very cautious and that is reflected in reactions such as closing schools when it's even suspected that the new flu may be there.

This flu was not tracked as seasonal flu is, and its spread is unpredictable.  Initial testing has been called into question. Of the over 150 deaths that have occurred in Mexico, several have definitly been proven to be due to H1N1 flu, and the rest are "probably," which is not good enough to chart a coarse to defeat a pandemic.

We know that young people are susceptible and that the antiviral medications, Tamiflu and Relenza, seem to shorten the course of this flu and lessen its severity. So far , this flu seems to be relatively mild in most people. As always, early identification and treatment when needed is important.

Information is coming from the CDC as quickly as they receive it. A clearer picture is developing and there should be some better answers within the next few days.

Q: My parents were in Mexico City for a week and came back on 4/22 We have spent a lot of time with them since they came back. They are feeling fine but today my husband has had low grade temp and explosive diarrhea. Do you think this is just a coincedence?

A: Where your husband contracted the diarrhea is not clear. There have been many cases in our area and they have been severe, and most have lasted about 1 day. Fluids, Imodium and rest have gotten post people through the ordeal. If the diarrhea persists, he needs medical attention.

Q: I was vaccinated in 1976 against the Swine flu due to pregnancy. Does this have any bearing upon exposure to this new strain at this time - good or bad? FYI: I had no bad side affects. I brought my son to the The Mayo Clinic for his check-up (he has severe health issues) and the Clinic was upset that I had gotten the vacination as it was done with a live virus, but it had been recommended nationally and my gynocologist insisted.

A: Vaccination in 1976 against the Swine Flu is not bearing good or bad on exposure to this new strain.

Q: I'm going to Mexico in one week. Should I still go?

A: The advice at this time is don't go to Mexico.

Q: My fiance and I are planning on going to the Riviera Maya (Cancun) area in early July for our honeymoon. I know that it is over 2 months away and we really would rather not reschedule, but I was hoping you would be able to give me a definitive answer.

A: I wish there was a definitive answer so you could firm up your plans. You know the advice is to avoid all nonessential travel to Mexico now. The situation is evaluated daily and there may be new guidelines in one to two weeks.

Q: My family returned from vacationing in the Cancun area on April 3. My 14-year-old daughter came down with the flu on April 25. Should I be concerned about the swine flu if we returned from vacation over three weeks ago?

A: The incubation period for swine flu is about a week or less, so if you were exposed 3 weeks ago, swine flu is unlikely to be a concern for you.

Q: My husband has returned from a trip to China, Singapore, India and England. He stayed in Singapore and England. In China and India, he was there for only 5 hours in transit.  He arrived with what we call a cold, now I have it. I haven't had one for four years. I have a bad sore throat, streaming nose, cough and wheezing breathing, no headache or chills. We hope it's just a cold, but I was concerned because of the airports are like international disease exchange centres.

A: It's unlikely that this is anything more than a cold, but for your symptoms alone it would be worthwhile consulting your doctor. A sore throat needs to be checked and wheezing needs to be addressed.

Q: My daughter was in Playal del Carman for a week and is coming home today. Should she wear the masks on the airplane?

A: Wearing a mask offers some degree of protection and would not be a bad idea.

Q: I believe I was vaccinated in 1976 during that swine flu outbreak in the U.S. Would my prior vaccination protect me from this strain of swine flu?

A: No, it would not protect you. Flu vaccination last for about 8 months at the most.

Q: Is it possible for the swine flu to spread to household pets, or is it just a human virus?

A: As far as we know, pets are not at risk.

Q: Regarding the swine flu: Are there any added risks and/or precautionary considerations to children and the elderly?

A: As always, a case of the flu puts the very young and the elderly at additional risk. Anyone who has another serious medical condition is likely to have complications from any case of the flu. Precautions would be hand washing, not touching your face with your hands and trying to stay away from people who are sick.

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