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Swine Flu FAQ

Answers to your questions about swine flu.

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 obese. 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.

Help! I've been exposed to H1N1 swine flu. What should I do?

If you come into close contact with a person who has the flu -- especially if that person did not cover a cough or sneeze when you were within 6 feet -- you've been exposed. Exposure does not guarantee infection or illness, so there's still a good chance you won't get the flu.

What you should do next depends on your risk for getting severe disease and on the risk of severe disease in others with whom you cannot avoid contact.

If you have any of the conditions that put you at increased risk of severe H1N1 swine flu -- pregnancy, asthma, lung disease, diabetes, heart disease, neurologic disease, immune suppression, or other chronic conditions -- it may be riskier for you to get the flu than for other people. That also goes for children under age 2 years, young people under age 19 taking daily aspirin therapy, and people over age 65. And if you are a caretaker for an infant under age 6 months, that child is at risk of severe disease if he or she catches the flu from you.

The CDC advises against the use of the anti-flu drugs Tamiflu and Relenza to keep exposed people from getting the flu. That's because most of the few cases of drug-resistant H1N1 swine flu have popped up in people taking Tamiflu to prevent flu.

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