Treatment of Influenza A(H1N1) ("Swine flu") at Mehiläinen
Influenza A(H1N1) ("Swine flu") was removed from the list of generally hazardous communicable diseases on 27 June 2009. At the same time the epidemic was moved into the so-called treatment phase, during which Mehiläinen, like other healthcare providers, began to treat influenza patients.
The best method of protecting yourself against influenza, as is the case with many other contagious diseases, is to wash your hands regularly. To prevent infecting others, cover your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue or, if necessary, with your sleeve when coughing or sneezing. Remember to wash your hands after sneezing and coughing.
The typical symptoms of influenza A(H1N1) include the sudden onset of fever (over 38 °C or 38.5 °C for under 3-year-olds) associated with respiratory symptoms such as coughing and a sore throat. Additional symptoms may include muscle aches and pains, headache and diarrhoea. During an epidemic, cases of influenza are confirmed mainly on the basis of symptoms and the results of clinical tests.
As a rule, those patients who do not belong to any risk groups and whose symptoms are mild do not usually need a medical examination or pharmacological treatment. Patients will normally recover after roughly a week of rest at home. In most cases, rest, plenty of fluids, and pain medication to alleviate symptoms are sufficient treatment. This also applies to persons returning from abroad.
According to current guidelines issued by medical experts, antiviral medication should be prescribed primarily for patients in need of hospital treatment and for those belonging to risk groups. People belonging to risk groups include pregnant women and those suffering from certain chronic diseases. Patients are to buy antiviral medicine prescribed by their physician from a pharmacy at their own expense. The attending physician may, at his or her discretion, prescribe antiviral medication for patients who have severe symptoms but do not belong to risk groups and are not in need of hospital treatment.
Patients with suspected Influenza A(H1N1) who belong to risk groups or who are suffering severe symptoms should immediately contact a physician in order to be evaluated for antiviral treatment or other care. Such symptoms include difficulty in breathing, pain or sensations of pressure in the chest, acute dizziness or disorientation, and violent or constant vomiting. Treatment should also be sought if flu-like symptoms disappear and then return with associated fever and aggravated coughing.
If you need to book a doctor's appointment because of the flu, make the appointment by telephone and inform the health centre of the reason for your appointment so that it can be arranged as safely as possible. Upon arrival at the health centre, inform reception staff if you suspect you have contracted the disease. Those infected will be asked to wear a face mask in the waiting room, and the staff may also wear masks when dealing with infected patients. At Mehiläinen we are trying to avoid the custom of shaking hands during the flu epidemic.
The authorities are preparing for an extensive vaccination programme to help slow down the spread of the epidemic. The time it will take for the vaccine to be delivered depends on the production capacity of the manufacturer. Further national decisions on vaccination, its practical realisation and the timetable according to which it will be carried out will be made in Autumn 2009.
At Mehiläinen we act in accordance with relevant guidelines issued by authorities. Up-to-date information on the influenza A(H1N1) virus is also available at www.thl.fi .