Newspapers around the country have much the same story to tell as far as the progress of the swine flu epidemic in the United States. The vaccine for the H1N1 virus has been manufactured in both an inhaled form for certain individuals and also by injection.
The news is that both types of vaccine are in short supply. Clinics across the U.S. are either canceling announced times when swine flu vaccine will be administered or turning away many patients waiting in line to be vaccinated. Many doctors’ offices haven’t received any of the vaccine supply expected.
With the shortage of vaccine and outbreaks in dozens of schools announced, the public has had to confront head on the reality of being infected with the swine flu virus. In addition to taking steps to avoid being a recipient of the virus, individuals are pausing to learn more about what happens if they contract it.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), medical professionals are somewhat handicapped in telling the public what to expect because the swine flu virus is brand new to them. They can confirm that it’s spread from one person to another just as other types of influenza are.
Transmission of the droplets of virus requires close contact between an infected person and another who’s susceptible. Generally, the droplets can travel less than six feet after a cough or sneeze. However, some individuals manage to contract swine flu just by touching contaminated surfaces such as a computer keyboard, a table, or tissues, then touching the mouth or nose.
Once H1N1 droplets touch a susceptible person, that individual looks and feels healthy for anywhere from one to seven days. The CDC speculates, however, that the incubation period is more likely to be between one and four days for each person infected.
How long the individual remains infected and sheds virus at this point remains unknown. This is one of the reasons why physicians consider the swine flu to be so highly contagious. Medical professionals assume that individuals with the H1N1 virus shed it from one day prior to the onset of the illness until the symptoms resolve.
For this reason, anyone who contracts this flu should be considered potentially infectious from one day prior to seven days after the illness starts. The CDC adds that children – especially younger ones – could be infectious for up to 10 days.
The most common symptoms of the 2009 swine flu virus are fever, cough, sore throat, and a runny or stuffy nose. Many people also report body aches, headaches, chills, and a general sense of fatigue. Some might also experience vomiting and diarrhea. Others have respiratory symptoms without showing any fever.
Cases have ranged from mild to severe. While most individuals recover on their own at home without medical treatment, individuals who are at high risk for serious complications have required hospitalization. This includes those at least 65 years old, children younger than 5, pregnant woman, and individuals of any age with one or more chronic medical conditions.