(All provided information below has been quoted directly from a combination of medical websites)
My wife came to me the other day and asked if she would invite her team from work over to our house for dinner. I knew something about her request smelled funny. Usually, she simply tells me her plans, “By the way, I’ve invited my team over.” There is never really an option. I show up where and when I am told.
So I asked the question. “Why are you asking?”
She said one teammate’s daughter and wife seven days ago became ill with H1N1. He is not sick, but he has been exposed. “Is it ok for him to come over” she wondered “or are we putting our family at risk?”
See we have two boys. One is 20 months old and the other is 9 weeks old. Even though her coworker is showing no symptoms of the flu, could he be carrying something that might adversely affect our little ones?
This prompted me to do some digging that I thought I’d share with you all.
H1N1 Symptoms and How It Spreads
Swine flu symptoms are similar to symptoms of other flu viruses. These include fever, cough, headaches, chills, body aches, a sore throat and fatigue. Vomiting and diarrhea have also been reported with this virus. It is important to remember that other conditions can cause these same symptoms. To determine for sure if you have swine flu versus another strain of flu or other condition, you will need to go to your doctor for a lab test.
Flu is similar to a cold virus in that it is typically spread from one person to another when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can pass through an infected person’s lungs, throat or nose, sending particles into the air that can pass to anyone that person comes in close contact with. The other main way the virus spreads is from touching surfaces that are contaminated with the virus and then touching your eyes, mouth or nose.
Infants and Children and the Novel H1N1 Virus
Little is currently known about how this novel influenza A (H1N1) virus circulating in people may affect children. However, seasonal influenza and past pandemics, it is known that children, especially those younger than 5 years of age and those who have high-risk medical conditions are at increased risk of influenza-related complications. Among children less than 5 years, the risk for severe complications from seasonal influenza is highest among children less than 2 years old.
Illnesses caused by influenza virus infection are difficult to distinguish from illnesses caused by other respiratory pathogens based on symptoms alone. Young children are less likely to have typical influenza symptoms (e.g., fever and cough) and infants may present to medical care with fever and lethargy, and may not have cough or other respiratory symptoms or signs.
Why Pregnant Women and New Mothers are Particularly Vulnerable to H1N1
The growing fetus in a pregnant woman presses upward and compresses the lungs. Compression reduces the ability of the lungs to fill and expel fluid. As a result, pregnant women are susceptible to pneumonia.
Pregnancy and birth demand substantial changes in a mother’s immune system to accommodate a foreign body and subsequently to enhance inflammation enough to deliver a baby. These dramatic shifts in the immune system make a mother more vulnerable to infection and make flu infections more dangerous.
Prevention of Infection of Pregnant Mothers and Newborns is Imperative
Since infection poses high risks for pregnant mothers and their babies, the first priority to prevent infection. Isolation and hygiene must be encouraged. In England, women have been discouraged from becoming pregnant until after the current H1N1 outbreak has subsided. The CDC has not yet made that recommendation, but they do direct pregnant women to be vigilant about avoiding contact with infected individuals, to minimize contact of siblings with potential sources of infection and discourage visitors to newborns.