Please refer to www.swineflu.ie for a comprehensive and up-to-date guide to this subject for Ireland. It has sections for both the public and health care professionals.
For all practical purposes, swine flu is the same as this year's seasonal flu, also known as H1N1. This year's regular flu vaccine protects against swine flu. Most cases of flu are swine flu. It is a relatively mild illness for most people. It is however always important to remember that there is an increased incidence of bacterial infections especially meningococcal disease as co-infections with the flu.
The people who should be vaccinated this winter (as in every other year) include those with chronic illnesses or debility, people over 65, health care workers, pregnant women and those who care for these vulnerable people. People in these groups who have not already been vaccinated for this winter should arrange to do so as soon as possible. Vaccination of pregnant women is advised because they are at particular risk of severe illness being caused by this flu. This advice is supported by obstetricians in Ireland and internationally. This can be done at any stage of pregnancy including up to six weeks after delivery but sooner is better. People outside the identified groups, including healthy children, do not need to be vaccinated.
Explanatory note: Because many people got either swine flu itself, or the swine flu vaccine last year, many will already be immune. Since no vaccine is 100% effective, some individuals vaccinated last year will not actually be immune and may get flu. Schoolchildren were targeted for vaccination last year, not because they are at particular risk of severe illness, but because vaccinating children has an additional beneficial effect for the overall community. The vaccination of otherwise healthy children this year is not required, but children with chronic illness, including those with significant intellectual or physical disabilities and those on regular treatment for asthma should be vaccinated this winter, even if they had the swine flu vaccine last year.
Influenza is reliably diagnosed based on the patient having appropriate symptoms and signs while it is known to be circulating in the population. Common symptoms include the sudden onset of a fever, cough, sore throat, muscle pains, headache or sometimes vomiting. Some people with flu will not have a fever. Swabs or blood tests are not usually necessary to make a reliable diagnosis or to treat patients. These tests are mainly done in patients who require hospitalisation. Laboratory confirmed case numbers, as reported in the media, are only the "tip of the iceberg" but serve to confirm that influenza is circulating.
Most people who get the flu will recover after a few days with simple treatment such as paracetamol to relieve symptoms.
People with chronic illnesses/debility (including asthma), people over 65, children under two years and pregnant women who develop symptoms of influenza should seek medical advice at an early stage in the illness, ideally within 24 hours, because they are at increased risk of complications. Treatment with Tamiflu (Oseltamivir) will often be advised in these situations.
Otherwise healthy people with
should also seek medical assistance.
You can protect yourself and others from becoming infected by:
If you get sick with flu, you can help protect others by:
Detailed information is available at www.swineflu.ie.