Although you may have had your child vaccinated against influenza this year, the vaccine only protects against normal strains of the flu. Swine flu and avian flu are not normal strains in humans and therefore, your child is not protected from these strains. There is no vaccine for animal based flu strains but two drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza, seem to be working effectively against them.
How can you tell whether your child has regular influenza or swine flu? Generally you can’t! The only definitive way of knowing is to have your physician take a swab from your child’s throat and send it for testing to the CDC. Symptoms are similar to what children experience with the regular flu.
Should you keep your child home from school? Not at this time unless they are sick. There have only been a handful of cases in the United States out of 300 million people who live here. A quick refresher on good hygiene reduces the risk of transmission. Covering their cough and washing their hands thoroughly are the best first line defense.
If you have recently traveled to Mexico, California, New York City, Ohio, Kansas or Texas you should keep a watchful eye out for illness. If your child has become ill since your travel, please have your child seen by their physician. If your child has traveled by plane elsewhere in the country recently and falls ill, you should also have them checked by your physician. The tightly contained space inside of an airplane is a breeding ground for airborne illness since the air inside the cabin is recirculated.
Should your child become ill and you are unsure whether he/she has anything serious, it is always advisable to have him/her see the pediatrician. Remember physicians cannot make a diagnosis over the phone. That’s like asking a mechanic to fix your car over the phone! While they can suspect what might be wrong there’s no way of knowing for certain without having it checked out.
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