Flu and Swine Flu -The Difference
Influenza (Flu) is caused by a virus and each winter a different strain of the virus causes an outbreak of flu. Some of the population have developed a natural immunity to the common strains of flu that circulate and as a result this contains the spread of the illness.
Influenza A/H1N1v (Swine Flu) is a brand new strain of flu affecting humans and therefore the population has little or no immunity to the virus which results in rapid infection and spread of the virus.
Why are two flu vaccinations needed this year?
Every year individuals with diabetes are identified as a priority group for the seasonal flu vaccination because if someone with diabetes gets flu it will upset their diabetes control. The same applies if someone with diabetes is infected with swine flu.
This year there are two potential causes of flu the anticipated seasonal flu and swine flu so as a result two different vaccines have been produced and this means you will need to have two flu jabs this year. If you have already attended for your annual flu jab it is important that you make a second appointment for your swine flu vaccination now that it is available. If you have not yet had your flu jab make an appointment now and you will be giving both vaccinations.
Why is flu an issue for people with diabetes?
When suffering from a cold, flu, or just about any other illness, the body is placed under tremendous physical stress in an effort to fight the infection. As part of the infection-fighting process, the body produces more glucose and this increases the bodies demand for insulin. When you have diabetes your body can not respond by producing more insulin and therefore your blood glucose levels will increase. The high blood glucose level, particularly if you have Type 1 diabetes, may make you unwell and if not managed correctly could cause diabetic ketoacidosis but they also mean the infection could last longer.
How can I reduce the risk being infected with seasonal flu and swine flu ?
The first and most important step is to have your flu jabs and then observe good general hygiene.
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water which will reduce the spread from your hands to your face.
- Encourage people around you to cover their nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing and if possible use a tissue which should be placed in a bin immediately.
- Clean hard surfaces such as door handles with your normal cleaning products regularly.
What do I do if I contract flu?
If you develop flu the main steps to take are rest, plenty of fluids and continue with your diabetes treatment.
To help your recovery it is important to follow the following steps
- Never stop your tablets or insulin
- Drink plenty of sugar free fluids
- Rest - most people with flu will need to spend a few days in bed this is particularly important if you have diabetes as forcing yourself to do things will increase your blood glucose levels further.
If you are treated with insulin it is important to
- Test your blood glucose level 4 times daily
- If you have type 1 diabetes and your blood glucose is above 14mmols check your urine for ketones.
You must contact your local diabetes team for advice if your blood glucose levels are running high or you have ketones in your urine. Both these symptoms are a sign that you will need to take extra insulin whilst you are ill.
Nurse Consultant in Diabetes Care
Bradford and Airedale Community Health Service
Any views and opinions expressed in the articles or case studies on this site are those of the person(s) featured and do not necessarily represent those of LifeScan. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for seeking medical advice from your diabetes health care professional.