Swine flu 101: What you need to know

Swine flu 101: What you need to know
This image taken through a microscope shows the H1N1 virus.
Want to know about swine flu? Check here for its definition, symptoms, risk groups and vaccination options.


Definition

H1N1 flu, casually known as swine flu, is a respiratory infection caused by an influenza virus first recognized in spring 2009. The new virus contains genetic material from human, swine and avian flu viruses.

Technically, the term "swine flu" refers to influenza in pigs. Occasionally, pigs transmit influenza viruses to people, mainly hog farm workers and veterinarians. Less often, someone infected occupationally passes the infection to others. You can't catch swine flu from eating pork.

Unlike typical swine flu, H1N1 flu spreads quickly and easily. In June 2009, when the infection's spread had been verified worldwide, the World Health Organization declared H1N1 flu a global pandemic.

Source: Mayo Clinic


Symptoms

The symptoms for H1N1 and seasonal flu are the same. They are:

-- Fever
-- Headaches
-- Extreme tiredness
-- Cough
-- Sore throat
-- Runny or stuffy nose
-- Muscle aches
-- Vomiting and diarrhea

Source: Kern County Department of Public Health Services


Who's at risk?

Young people, pregnant women and people with pre-existing health problems are particularly at risk for contracting H1N1 flu.

Source: Kern County Department of Public Health Services


Where to get vaccinated

The Kern County Department of Public Health Services offers nasal mist and shots, though supplies have been limited. The department can be contacted at (661) 868-0306 for more information.

Click here for a list of public health clinics scheduled through the end of January.

Some private doctors, medical groups and pharmacies also offer vaccinations.

Google has launched an interactive map that shows where flu shots are offered.

Source: Kern County Department of Public Health Services


Viewer questions

See the answers to some viewer questions below, or submit your own question via e-mail by clicking here.

Q: If you are infected with the swine flu, can you give it to your dog or cat?

A: No, according to San Joaquin Veterinary Hospital. There have been no reported cases of H1N1 transferring from humans to dogs or cats. H1N1 has only been passed among humans, birds and swine.

Q: When people die of H1N1 from underlying medical conditions, what possible underlying conditions are those?

A: Some examples are heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, asthma, obesity, pregnancy and autoimmune deficiency disorders, according to the Kern County Department of Public Health.

Q: Can you get the H1N1 vaccine and the (seasonal) flu shot in the same day?

A: The H1N1 vaccine in the injectable form is safe to get on the same day as the seasonal flu shot, according to the public health department. The nasal vaccine is not safe to get the same day as the seasonal flu shot.

Q: What are the criteria for schools to notify patents of H1N1 cases at my child's school?

A: This can be found by the breakdown of school districts on the county public health Web site.