Swine Flu Virus Unpredictable, Scientists Warn
Anyone who develops serious flu-like symptoms should seek immediate medical attention, because no one can predict when the H1N1 flu virus, or swine flu, will turn life-threatening in otherwise healthy people, infectious disease experts are warning.
Severe cases are occurring, in which the infection starts off like regular seasonal flu, with fever and cough, but then the lungs rapidly become inflamed and stop functioning.
"It looks to most of us like a primary viral pneumonia that deteriorates five or six days into therapy," says Dr. Allison McGeer, director of infection control at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital. "It's really severe illness."
"If you're young and healthy, you can recover from that severe lung injury. People do. But it takes a very long time," Dr. McGeer said.
"Sometimes we're talking about a month, five weeks on a ventilator before you are breathing on your own. Some people can be left with so much residual lung damage, they will have abnormal lungs for their lifetime."