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Swine flu is the common name given to a relatively new strain of influenza (flu) that caused a flu pandemic in 2009-2010.

It is also referred to as H1N1 influenza (because it is the H1N1 strain of virus).

The H1N1 flu virus will be one of the main viruses circulating this winter. Therefore, in the UK the H1N1 flu virus has been included in the 2010-11 seasonal flu vaccine.

Human infections with a new avian influenza A (H7N9) virus were first reported in China in March 2013. Most of these infections are believed to result from exposure to infected poultry or contaminated environments, as H7N9 viruses have also been found in poultry in China. While some mild illnesses in human H7N9 cases have been seen, most patients have had severe respiratory illness, with about one-third resulting in death. No evidence of sustained person-to-person spread of H7N9 has been found, though some evidence points to limited person-to-person spread in rare circumstances. The first case outside of China was in Malaysia and was reported on February 12, 2014. The case was detected in a traveler from an H7N9-affected area of China. The new H7N9 virus has not been detected in people or birds in the United States.

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It is recommended that people in high-risk groups be vaccinated against H1N1 (swine flu). This includes all pregnant women, at any stage of pregnancy.

What to do if you have H1N1 flu

People with H1N1 flu typically have a fever or high temperature (over 38C or 100.4F) and may also have aching muscles, sore throat or a dry cough.  If you show two or more of the following symptoms, you may have H1N1 flu:

* unusual tiredness
* headache
* runny nose
* sore throat
* shortness of breath or cough
* loss of appetite
* aching muscles
* diarrhoea or vomiting

The symptoms are very similar to other types of seasonal flu. Most people recover within a week, even without special treatment.

If you think you have H1N1 flu, see your own qualified medical practitioner.  They will decide the most appropriate action to take.

High-risk groups

Some people are more at risk of complications if they catch flu. People are particularly vulnerable if they have:

* chronic (long-term) lung disease
* chronic heart disease
* chronic kidney disease
* chronic liver disease
* chronic neurological disease (neurological disorders include motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease)
* immunosuppression (whether caused by disease or treatment)
* diabetes mellitus

Also at risk are:

* patients who have had drug treatment for asthma in the past three years
* pregnant women
* people aged 65 and over

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