The recent swine flu outbreak has been making headlines as the disease has spread across the world and caused dozens of fatalities. This highly contagious strain of influenza, which was first detected in Mexico, has quickly spread to many continents, affecting hundreds of people in less than one week with symptoms of headache, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. Swine flu has proven fatal in a small percentage of cases, particularly in Mexico, where it has taken the lives of more than 150 otherwise-healthy young adults.
Swine flu news is particularly alarming to many because several symptoms of the swine flu mimic those of seasonal allergies. This means that many people with allergies may be unnecessarily anxious about their symptoms, while some cases of the swine flu may be misdiagnosed as simple allergies. Therefore, experts recommend that people with allergies become educated about the difference between allergy and swine flu symptoms. Because swine flu can be fatal, early and accurate detection is crucial.
The Swine Flu Fiasco
When was swine flu discovered? While many people are now hearing about swine flu for the first time, swine flu has appeared before in the United States’ history. In 1976 Swine flu infected nearly 300 military recruits in New Jersey, but disappeared almost as mysteriously as it appeared, causing only one fatality. A few other cases of swine flu were noted in history, and millions were vaccinated against the disease after the 1976 outbreak. Because the 2009 swine flu fiasco is a result of a different strain of the disease, swine flu vaccines administered in the 1970s will not protect individuals from the current outbreak.
Swine Flu Symptoms vs. Allergy Symptoms
The symptoms of swine flu in humans are very similar to symptoms of seasonal allergies. Experts agree that it’s important to know how to differentiate between the two conditions to avoid unnecessary stress and worry. A study of swine flu symptoms has revealed that they can be differentiated from allergies or the common cold, as several key symptoms are present in those with swine flu, but not allergies.
Swine flu symptoms, which are similar to allergy symptoms, include:
- runny nose
- sore throat.
Several symptoms that are present in swine flu patients, but not in those just with seasonal allergies include:
- loss of appetite
Itchy, watery eyes and nasal congestion are also indicators of allergies, but not of swine flu. (Of course, it’s possible to have both seasonal allergies and swine flu, so if you are experiencing these symptoms as well as the symptoms of swine flu, and have been exposed to the virus, you should seek medical treatment immediately).
What to Do If You Think You Have Swine Flu
While allergies are not contagious, swine flu has rapidly been passed between humans. If you are simply experiencing flu-like symptoms, it’s important to take the necessary precautions against spreading the disease:
- Sneeze into a tissue, not a handkerchief; discard the tissue and wash your hands after sneezing.
- Stay at home and avoid interaction with healthy individuals until you feel well again.
- Wash sheets and pillowcases in hot water to get kill of germs.
- Wash your hands whenever you touch anything or anyone.
If you are experiencing swine flu symptoms, however, and have recently been in a high-risk area (such as Mexico) or you have been in contact with someone who was confirmed to have the disease, see your doctor as soon as you can. It’s currently not possible to diagnose swine flu simply by examining symptoms, and your doctor likely won’t have the ability to give you an immediate diagnosis. For an accurate diagnosis, your doctor will send test results to a state health department lab, which will be able to determine whether or not your symptoms are indicative of swine flu.