Swine Flu (Swine Influenza A [H1N1 and H3N2v] Virus)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Quick GuideRespiratory Infections: Pneumonia, Bronchitis, Flu, and More

Respiratory Infections: Pneumonia, Bronchitis, Flu, and More

Are there home remedies for swine flu?

There are many flu "cures" and "treatments" described on the Internet (for example, how cayenne pepper, menthol, or ginseng can be used to treat the flu); before using any of these substances, check with a doctor. However, there are many over-the-counter medications, such as naproxen (Aleve), ibuprofen (Advil and others) and acetaminophen (Tylenol), to reduce fever and discomfort, lozenges to sooth a sore throat, and decongestants to help manage mucus production and coughing. These medications help manage flu symptoms but do not cure the viral disease.

Was swine flu (H1N1) a cause of an epidemic or pandemic in the 2009-2010 flu season?

Yes. An epidemic is defined as an outbreak of a contagious disease that is rapid and widespread, affecting many individuals at the same time. The swine flu outbreak in Mexico fit this definition. A pandemic is an epidemic that becomes so widespread that it affects a region, continent, or the world. On June 11, 2009, WHO officials determined that H1N1 2009 influenza A swine flu reached WHO level 6 criteria (person-to-person transmission in two separate WHO-determined world regions) and declared the first flu pandemic in 41 years. The H1N1 flu reached over 200 different countries on every continent except Antarctica in the 2009-2010 flu season; fortunately, the severity of the disease did not increase. The following is the CDC data for mortality and morbidity of the 2009 epidemic in the US: final estimates were published in 2011 and state that from Apr. 12, 2009, to Apr. 10, 2010 approximately 60.8 million cases (range: 43.3-89.3 million), 274,304 hospitalizations (195,086-402,719), and 12,469 deaths (8868-18,306) occurred in the United States due to H1N1. An outbreak in India that became widespread in that country is still ongoing in 2016.

What is the prognosis (outlook) and complications for patients who get swine flu?

In general, the majority (about 90%-95%) of people who get the disease feel terrible (see symptoms) but recover with no problems, as seen in patients in Mexico, the U.S., and many other countries.

People with suppressed immune systems historically have worse outcomes than uncompromised individuals; investigators suspect that as swine flu spreads, the mortality rates may rise and be high in this population. Current data suggest that pregnant individuals, children under 2 years of age, young adults, and individuals with any immune compromise or debilitation are likely to have a worse prognosis. Complications of swine flu may resemble severe viral pneumonia or the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome caused by a coronavirus strain) outbreak in 2002-2003 in which the disease spread to about 10 countries with over 7,000 cases, caused over 700 deaths, and had a 10% mortality rate. At the beginning of the pandemic, the numbers of people with flu-like illness were higher than usual and the illness initially affected a much younger population than the conventional flu. As the pandemic progressed, more young children became infected than usual, but the mortality statistics became more similar to the conventional flu mortality rate, with an older population (especially ages 50-64) having the highest death rate. Pneumonia (viral and secondary bacterial pneumonia), is the most serious complication of the flu as it can cause death. Other complications include sinus and ear infections, asthma exacerbations, and/or bronchitis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/18/2016

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