Novel H1N1 (Swine Flu) and Concerns for People Living With HIV

A total of 8,843 hospitalized cases of swine flu have been confirmed in all 50 states, DC and Puerto Rico. 556 deaths have occurred. National statistics are updated weekly by the Centers for Disease Control.

The CDC has described the most common symptoms for those who were admitted to the hospital, along with conditions that may be risk factors for more severe disease. Underlying health issues are all common in those who have been hospitalized with novel H1N1 flu, and include problems with immunosuppression, chronic lung conditions (asthma, COPD, etc.), heart disease, diabetes and obesity. The most notable symptoms were fever, cough, vomiting, dehydration and shortness of breath. Diarrhea was uncommon.

As this is a newly developed flu strain, there's no information as to its effect on people with HIV. Using the Interim CDC Guidelines would be appropriate for people with HIV.

A diagnostic test kit has been developed and distributed to all states, Puerto Rico and internationally. This will allow states and other countries to test for this new virus. This will likely result in more confirmed cases, which should provide a more accurate picture of the burden of disease in the US. Other seasonal flu viruses are still circulating as well.

Some points to consider:

  • Report any change in health to your health provider as soon as you recognize symptoms.
  • Symptoms of swine flu are typical flu symptoms: fever, fatigue, aches and pains, sore throat and trouble breathing, among others. Limit contact with people if you're feeling flu-like symptoms.
  • Avoid crowds of people or individuals who appear to have flu-like symptoms.
  • Wash your hands often throughout the day, and avoid touching your face with your hands.
  • Tamiflu (oseltamivir) or Relenza (zanamivir) may be prescribed by a doctor in various situations. The CDC reports that these are effective against this strain of swine flu. These products have not been well studied in people with HIV. Consult Project Inform's publication, Flu Season and Living with HIV, for general information on the flu.

For more information, check the websites for California Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control.