April 29, 2009

April 29, 2009
The Flu Continued

Thanks for checking out what is going on in another day in my life. Today is Wednesday and we have made it to the middle of another week. I hope you have been having a good one so far.

Still recovering here but at least not feeling worse than I was the past three days. Being sick has given me the time to get caught up on the website, emails and calls. Well almost. I will hopefully be caught up by tomorrow.

I would like to continue talking about the Swine Flu. Today will be about how to avoid and why it is harmful to people with HIV and AIDS.

Is swine flu a threat to people living with HIV?

People living with HIV—as well as those with other chronic conditions, such as heart disease, asthma and diabetes—are believed to face an increased risk of serious influenza-related symptoms. According to the CDC, there is often a spike in the number of heart- and lung-related hospitalizations among people living with HIV during the winter influenza season as opposed to other times of the year. Studies also indicate that influenza symptoms might be prolonged and the risks of influenza-related complications—including death—are higher for certain HIV-positive people.

It is not clear that this strain of swine flu poses any more or less of a risk to people living with HIV. One theory: Given that, at least in Mexico, swine flu mimics what was seen during the 1918 influenza pandemic—it appears most serious among people between 18 and 35 years of age; those with healthy immune systems that become hyperactive in response to the virus and causes serious respiratory inflammation and disease—and may be less of a threat to those with compromised immune systems, such as people living with HIV. Unfortunately, it is not clear if this theory will hold up, given that many HIV-positive people are responding well to antiretroviral treatment, compounded by the possibility that a hyperactive immune response to HIV, not the virus itself, is responsible for HIV disease progression and a heightened risk of non-AIDS related health problems.

To help prevent seasonal flu, an annual vaccine is recommended for people with HIV to lower the risk of infection or serious disease if infection does occur. Unfortunately, a vaccine has not yet been developed against swine influenza A/H1N1. But people living with HIV can take steps to prevent infection.

How can I protect myself?

The CDC and other public health experts list fairly simple ways to prevent the spread of swine influenza A/H1N1. These include:

* Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. * Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective. * Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way. * Try to avoid close contact with sick people. * Very little is known about the benefits of wearing face masks to help control the spread of flu. Whenever possible, instead of relying on face masks, try avoiding close contact and crowded conditions—particularly if swine flu reaches pandemic status. * No evidence shows that swine flu can be transmitted through food. Eating properly handled pork—cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees—is safe. * If you come down with influenza-like symptoms, contact your doctor’s office immediately and stay home from work or school.

It is possible to rapidly develop a vaccine—if it’s needed. “We’ve identified the virus,” Richard Besser, MD, acting director of the CDC said during a White House press briefing on Sunday. “Should we decide to manufacture a vaccine, we can work toward that goal very quickly.” Though it would likely take at least four months to develop and mass produce a vaccine against H1N1, it could be available in time for a possible second wave of swine flu this coming winter.

What about medications against swine flu?

Good news. Initial tests suggest that swine influenza A/H1N1 is sensitive to two widely available antiviral medications: Relenza (zanamivir) and Tamiflu (oseltamivir). The flu medications Symmetrel (amantadine) and Flumadine (rimantadine) are not effective against this particular strain of influenza.

These medications work much like antiretrovirals do against HIV—they prevent the influenza virus from reproducing in the body. If someone becomes ill with influenza, including swine flu, Relenza or Tamiflu can minimize symptoms and speed up recovery. They may also prevent serious flu complications. For treatment, these medications work best if started soon after getting sick—within two days of symptoms—so call your doctor immediately if you experience flu-related signs.

According to the CDC, people at high risk of serious influenza-related complications—including people living with HIV/AIDS—can take Relenza or Tamiflu if they are likely to be exposed to other people with influenza. For example, if a family or household member is diagnosed with influenza, the exposed person with HIV/AIDS should take either drug for seven days. Relenza or Tamiflu prescriptions might also be a good idea for HIV-positive people who live in institutions experiencing an influenza outbreak.

With the swine flu designated as a public health emergency, the U.S. government has released 25 percent of the 50 million doses of antiviral medications from the nation’s Strategic National Stockpile.

So stay tuned for further developments. Luckily we do not have any cases reported in Florida... yet.

Wishing you health, hope and happiness.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab