The U.S. and world news media outlets are all buzzing with talk about the Swine Flu. As is usually the case, they have very little to say despite they are talking about it for 5 or 10 minutes every hour.
How is a nurse, student nurse, or other medical professional supposed to get the information they need to answer patient questions and concerns when the hype from the news media is creating widespread concern?
Mass Media Has Nothing to Say
The best quote I’ve heard so far is this one from an NBC reporter in Washington, D.C. who said that officials have said that this outbreak has the potential to either become a pandemic or become nothing.
Let’s get this straight: “Pandemic . . . or . . . not!” Are you serious?
This means that they really have nothing to say since nobody knows what is going to happen or even how serious the outbreak is.
Five Things for Every Nurse to Know About Swine Flu
Here are my list of 5 things every nurse or healthcare professional needs to know now about the swine flu. There are links below to even more information so do your homework.
If you are like me, you are bound to have a neighbor, family member, or patient ask you about the outbreaks. Be knowledgeable and have the resources to back you up.
Check back here later this week for more info, updates and specific patient info.
1. What is the Swine Flu?
“Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pigs. Swine flu viruses cause high levels of illness and low death rates in pigs.”
“Swine influenza viruses may circulate among swine throughout the year, but most outbreaks occur during the late fall and winter months similar to outbreaks in humans. The classical swine flu virus (an influenza type A H1N1 virus) was first isolated from a pig in 1930.” (From the CDC Swine Flu info page.)
2. What are the common symptoms of the swine flu?
The symptoms of the Swine Flu are similar to other forms of influenza. The FDA’s Medline Plus online encyclopedia on flu says that symptoms of the flu come on suddenly and are worse than those of the common cold. They may include
- Body or muscle aches
- Sore throat
3. Where can I get authoritative information about the swine flu?
First of all, don’t go to the media outlets. They aren’t about information as much as they are about keeping you watching and alarming their viewers/listeners. Here are the resources I used to get the information on the Swine Flu outbreak and what to do for myself, my patients, and my family.
CDC Site on Swine Flu (they’re the experts – trust them)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (more experts)
FDA Medline Plus on Influenza (lots of links and resources)
4. Will my flu shot or other medications protect me from the swine flu?
Your annual flu shot will not protect you from the swine flu. It was formulated for the expected annual flu strains and this was not part of that formulation. However, it is still not too late to get the flu shot to protect you from some of the other common flu strains we see.
The CDC has this to say about the other drugs available for those who contract the swine flu.
“There are four different antiviral drugs that are licensed for use in the US for the treatment of influenza: amantadine, rimantadine, oseltamivir and zanamivir. While most swine influenza viruses have been susceptible to all four drugs, the most recent swine influenza viruses isolated from humans are resistant to amantadine and rimantadine.”
“At this time, CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for the treatment and/or prevention of infection with swine influenza viruses.” (from the CDC Key Facts about Swine Flu page)
5. What is the best way to prevent the spread of swine flu?
This is a trick question. You already know the answer to this one. The most effective infection prevention measure for most of these infectious illnesses is to WASH YOUR HANDS!
Don’t believe me? Okay, here is what the CDC has to say about avoiding the swine flu illness (see – hand washing is first).
“First and most important: wash your hands. Try to stay in good general health. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food. Try not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.” (From the CDC page “Swine Flu and You”)
Come back tomorrow for updates and some resource & education links for your patients.