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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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Swine Flu FAQ

Answers to your questions about swine flu.

What are swine flu symptoms? continued...

Like seasonal flu, pandemic swine flu can cause neurologic symptoms in children. These events are rare, but, as cases associated with seasonal flu have shown, they can be very severe and often fatal. Symptoms include seizures or changes in mental status (confusion or sudden cognitive or behavioral changes). It's not clear why these symptoms occur, although they may be caused by Reye's syndrome. Reye's syndrome usually occurs in children with a viral illness who have taken aspirin -- something that should always be avoided.

Only lab tests can definitively show whether you've got swine flu. State health departments can do these tests. During the peak of the pandemic, these tests were reserved for patients with severe flu symptoms.

Who is at highest risk from H1N1 swine flu?

Most U.S. cases of H1N1 swine flu have been in children and young adults. It's not clear whether this will change as the 2009 H1N1 pandemic wanes and the virus becomes a seasonal flu bug.

But certain groups are at particularly high risk of severe disease or bad outcomes if they get the flu:

  • Pregnant women are six times more likely to have severe flu disease than women who are not pregnant.
  • Young children, especially those under 2 years of age
  • People with asthma.
  • People with COPD or other chronic lung conditions
  • People with cardiovascular conditions (except high blood pressure)
  • People with liver problems
  • People with kidney problems
  • People with blood disorders, including sickle cell disease
  • People with neurologic disorders
  • People with neuromuscular disorders
  • People with metabolic disorders, including diabetes
  • People with immune suppression, including HIV infection and medications that suppress the immune system, such as cancer chemotherapy or anti-rejection drugs for transplants
  • Residents of a nursing home or other chronic-care facility
  • Elderly people are at high risk of severe flu disease -- if they get it. Relatively few swine flu cases have been seen in people over age 65.

People in these groups should seek medical care as soon as they get flu symptoms.

A striking number of adults who developed severe swine flu complications have been morbidly ob ese. While the vast majority of extremely obese people suffer respiratory problems and/or diabetes, which make flu worse, obesity itself is now considered a risk for serious 2009 H1N1 flu.

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