Health

Swine flu questions answered

Basic information about swine flu in question and answer format.

Q. What is swine flu?

A. Swine flu is a new strain of flu (influenza). The medical name for this strain is H1N1v. It has been called a ‘€˜pandemic’€™ because of the speed with which it spread to many different countries in a short time.

Q. Are HIV-positive people more at risk of catching swine-flu?

A. No. Generally, as with other strains of flu, having HIV does not increase your risk of catching swine flu.

Q. Are HIV-positive people at risk of becoming more ill from swine flu?

A. Not generally. It may be more serious if you have a low CD4 count (less than 200 cells/mm3). This is mainly because symptoms of other serious infections could be mistaken for flu. If you have flu symptoms and either a low CD4 count, other health complications or are pregnant, please call your HIV clinic.

Q. How is swine flu different from regular seasonal flu?

A. Because this is a new strain of flu virus, no-one is currently immune. Researchers are already working to produce a vaccine, and this may, or may not, be ready in time for the next flu season.

Q. How is swine flu spread?

A. Swine flu is spread by person-to-person contact, just like regular flu – specifically through not covering your mouth when sneezing and not washing your hands.

Catch-it, Bin-it, Kill-it. (www.nhs.uk)  

Q. Will flu meds work in people who are HIV-positive?

A. Antiviral medications used to treat flu (for example, oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza ) will work in HIV-positive people. The main reson to take them is to reduce how infectious you are.

Q. Will flu treatments interact with my HIV drugs?

A. There is a potential for interactions between Tamiflu, boosted PIs and some nukes (3TC, FTC and tenofovir) but the benefits outweigh this small risk. Your pharmacist will advise you on this. *

Q. Will I still get my HIV meds?

A. If the flu outbrteak is severe this could limit routine services. To prepare for this ALWAYS KEEP AT LEAST ONE MONTH’€™S SUPPLY of HIV meds at home. Some clinics will give you an additional month supply or ask you to return earlier for a new prescription. During August or September, arrange to get enough meds to last you until January. You want to avoid having to visit your clinic in October or November when the flu outbreak is likely to be at it’€™s peak.

Q. When does seasonal flu occur?

A. The risk period for flu, including swine flu, is during the autumn and winter, especially from September to December.

Q. What is the risk that this years’€™ flu will be swine flu and be more severe?

A. This is difficult to predict. Hopefully, there is only a small chance of such a serious outbreak this year.

Q. Should I have the flu vaccine?

A. HIV-positive people are routinely recommended to have the seasonal flu vaccine. You need to be registered with a GP to get this and any new vaccines.

For more information visit: www.i-Base.info

About the author

Health-e News

Health-e News is South Africa's dedicated health news service and home to OurHealth citizen journalism. Follow us on Twitter @HealtheNews