Yesterday, a person was confirmed contracting swine flu or H1N1 Influenza at the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital at Teku in Kathmandu.
Swine flu hasn’t created much panic in Nepal when compared to neighboring India. And over the years, its terror has waned. Nevertheless, it is still imperative that you know certain things about it in order to be safe. We have scoured the World Wide Web and have compiled an article about all the things you need to about the H1N1 influenza.
What is swine flu and why is it called so?
Swine flu, also known as 2009 H1N1 Type A influenza, is a human respiratory disease.
The disease was originally nicknamed ‘swine flu’ because the virus that causes the disease first jumped to humans from the live pigs in which it evolved. This virus is a “reassortant” – a mix of genes from swine, bird and human flu. Scientists are still arguing about what the virus should be called, but most people know it as the H1N1 swine flu virus.
The swine flu viruses that typically spread among pigs aren’t alike human flu. Swine flu doesn’t often infect people, and the rare human cases that have occurred in the past have mainly affected people who had direct contact with pigs. But the current “swine flu” outbreak is different. It’s caused by a new swine flu virus strain that has changed in ways that allow it to spread from person to person – among people who haven’t had any contact with pigs. Thus making it a human flu virus.
Why is swine flu dangerous?
The new H1N1 virus isn’t that dangerous. It’s more the potential of it. This virus is constantly evolving and most people have no natural immunity to H1N1 swine flu. The outbreak started in Mexico but it has spread over a wide geographic area and affected a large proportion of the population so much so that the World Health Organization called it a pandemic in 2009.
How is swine flu transmitted?
First and foremost, let’s clear the misconception associated with swine flu. It is not caused due to the consumption of pork products. It is a human virus. The only way to get H1N1 swine flu is from another person.
It spreads in the same way as the seasonal flu – by the inhalation or ingestion of cough and sneeze droplets containing the virus. People may also spread it by touching an infected surface and then touching their eyes, mouth or nose.
Symptoms of swine flu
The symptoms of swine flu are much like those of regular flu and include:
- Fever (greater than 100°F or 37.8°C)
- Weakness and Body Aches
- Sore Throat
- Pain in the Muscles
- Dry Cough
- Stuffy or Runny nose
- Decreased Appetite
Who is at highest risk from H1N1 swine flu?
When it first emerged, swine flu was most common in young adults. This was curious because most flu viruses attack older adults or the very young. Today, risk factors for getting swine flu are the same as for any other strain of the flu. You’re most at risk if you spend time in an area with a large number of people who are infected with swine flu.
Some people who are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they’re infected with swine flu. These groups include:
- Adults over age 65
- Children under the age of 5
- Young adults under the age of 19 who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
- People with suppressed immune system due to disease like AIDS and medications such a chemotherapy or anti-rejection drugs for transplants
- Pregnant women
- People with asthma, chronic lung condition, liver and kidney problem, and neurologic and neuromuscular disorders
- People with metabolic disorders, including diabetes
How do I know if it’s swine flu?
It’s hard to tell whether you have swine flu or season flu as most symptoms are the same. People with swine flu may be more likely to feel nauseous and throw up than people with seasonal flu. But a lab test is the only way to know for sure.
The doctor can make a diagnosis by sampling fluid from your body. They will then analyze the sample using various genetic and laboratory techniques to identify the specific type of virus.
How long can an infected person spread this virus to others?
An adult is usually contagious as long as they have symptoms – usually up to seven days following the beginning of the illness. The “shedding stage” of the virus is during the first 4-5 days of illness. Children can be considered contagious longer, up to 10 days. The initial incubation period is 24-48 hours.
What’s the treatment for swine flu?
Most cases of swine flu don’t require medication for treatment. You don’t need to see a doctor unless you’re at risk for developing medical complications from the flu. You should focus on relieving your symptoms and preventing the spread of the H1N1 virus to others.
Two antiviral medicines are recommended for treating swine flu: the oral oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). Because flu viruses can develop resistance to these drugs, they’re often reserved for people who are at high risk for complications from the flu. People who are otherwise generally healthy and get swine flu will be able to fight the infection on their own. Taking proper rest, keeping warm and drinking plenty of water and other liquids such as soup and juices do the trick in that case.
How to prevent swine flu?
The best way to prevent swine flu is to get a yearly flu vaccination. Other easy ways to avoid getting swine flu include:
- Frequently wash hands with soap or use hand sanitizer
- Avoid touching your nose, mouth, or the eyes
- Stay home from work or school if you’re ill
- Avoid large gatherings in flu season
Should I wear a face mask or respirator?
As the denizens of Kathmandu (Maskmandu) are relying heavily on masks to tackle the on-going pollution woes, many are bound to wonder if masks are a good defense for swine flu. The answer is maybe. Face masks and respirators may very well offer extra protection, but they should not be your first line of defense against either pandemic or seasonal flu.
Can one get infected more than once?
Getting infected with any influenza virus, including the H1N1 virus, should cause your body to develop immune resistance to that virus so it’s not likely that a person would be infected with the identical influenza virus more than once. However, people with weakened immune systems might not develop full immunity after infection and might be more likely to get infected with the same influenza virus more than once.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only.
We hope you find this article helpful.