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H1N1 (Swine Flu): Novel H1N1 – An Illness of the Young

June 5, 2009

How do you know when swine flu has turned serious?  Doctors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained what flu warning signs warrant urgent medical attention.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, the C.D.C.’s interim deputy director for science and public health, said that in the United States, 507 people have been hospitalized because of swine flu. She noted that people over 55 account for only 1 percent of cases, and 62 percent of the people getting sick are from 5 to 24 years old.

In children, warning signs to seek medical attention include:

  • Fast or troubled breathing.
  • Skin turning bluish or gray.
  • Persistent or severe vomiting.
  • Not drinking enough fluids.
  • Being unusually hard to wake up or not interacting.
  • Being so irritable that the child doesn’t want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

In adults, serious warning signs include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen.
  • Persistent vomiting.
  • Sudden dizziness.
  • Confusion.
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

Dr. Schuchat said that so far, the “attack rate” of this new strain of flu — the proportion of people in the community who get sick — seems to be from 7 to 10 percent. About 20 percent of people who are exposed to a sick household member catch the virus. These figures are similar to the usual strain of seasonal flu.

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