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Swine Flu makes a Comeback

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It seems that with every winter comes a new type of Influenza that grips our nation with fear and confusion. This year, the H1N1 Influenza virus, more commonly known as the Swine flu, has made an unwelcome comeback, becoming the most common influenza strain of Winter 2013/2014.

Panic swept the country as case after case of infection has been reported, suggesting a possible outbreak of the disease, causing the disruption of the school year and the fear among parents and individuals alike.

According to the Ministry of Health, since December 2013, a total of 539 people have been declared of having the virus—63 of whom have died.

Swine flu is a relatively new strain of influenza that was responsible for a flu pandemic during 2009 that left scores dead and led the Government to slaughter 300,000 pigs, although studies have later shown that the disease only spread from human to human.

Now part of the seasonal influenza pattern, the H1N1 virus does not normally cause severe illness except among high-risk groups, including children younger than seven years old, adults older than 60 years old, as well as pregnant women and individuals suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes and kidney disease.

The high number of deaths and chronic cases are the result of the virus overpowering the immune systems of vulnerable individuals.

This year though, people outside the risk groups faced a greater risk of severe illness than usual. In Egypt and across the world, healthcare providers have reported an increase in severe H1N1 infections—requiring intensive hospital care for young and middle-age adults.

While too early to conclude if the virus has mutated to become more aggressive, it is worth noting that flu seasons typically cycle between mild and severe epidemic years, with 2014 appearing to be more severe than previous years.

Doctors recommend a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease.

While there are many different flu viruses, the flu vaccine is designed to protect against the three main flu strains that research indicates will cause the most illness during the flu season, including the H1N1 strain.

Getting the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available each year is always a good idea, and the protection from vaccination will last throughout the flu season.

Aside from the yearly vaccine, the spread of the flu can be prevented by frequent hand-washing, keeping homes and workplaces well-ventilated, getting adequate amounts of sleep, eating healthy food, and keeping distance from those who are ill.

The Ministry of Health recommends that people among high-risk groups should take extra care and visit a doctor promptly if they have high fever, sore throat and cough for more than 48 hours.

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