Everybody has heard the name Swine flu, also known as the H1N1 virus. It is a relatively new strain of an influenza virus that causes symptoms similar to the regular flu. It originated in pigs but spread primarily from person to person.
It was first discovered in humans and became a pandemic. Pandemics are the contagious diseases affecting people throughout the world or on multiple continents at the same time. Since then, the H1N1 virus has been known as a regular human flu virus. It continues to spread during flu season like other strains of the flu. It is highly contagious, allowing it to spread quickly from person to person. A simple sneeze can cause thousands of germs to spread through the air. The virus can linger on tables and surface areas like door knobs, waiting to be picked up.
Risk factors for swine flu
Swine flu was most common in children 5 years and older and young adults when it first emerged. This was unusual because most flu virus infections are a higher risk for complications in older adults or the very young. Today, risk factors for getting swine flu are the same as for any other flu. If you spend time in an area with a large number of people who are infected with swine flu you are in risk for getting affected with swine flu. Though people of every age group is affected with it. Some people are at higher risk for becoming seriously ill if they’re infected with swine flu. These groups include:
- adults over age 65
- children under 5 years old
- young adults and children under age 19 who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
- people with compromised immune systems (due to a disease such as AIDS)
- pregnant women
- people with chronic illnesses such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes mellitus, or neuromuscular disease
Causes of swine flu
Swine flu is caused by a strain of influenza virus that usually only infects pigs. Unlike typhus, which can be transmitted by lice or ticks, swine flu transmission is same as other flu and usually occurs from person to person, not animal to person.When people effected by swine flucoughs or sneezes, they spray tiny drops of the virus into the air. If you come in contact with these drops, or touch a surface (like a doorknob or sink) where the drops landed, or touch something an infected person has recently touched, you can catch H1N1 swine flu.
People who have it can spread it one day before they have any symptoms and as many as 7 days after they get sick. Kids can be contagious for as long as 10 days.
Despite the name, you can’t catch swine flu from eating bacon, ham, or any other pork product.
Swine flu is very contagious. The disease is spread through saliva and mucus particles. People may spread it by:
- Or by touching a germ-covered surface and then touching their eyes or nose
Symptoms of swine flu
The symptoms of swine flu are very much like those of regular influenza. And they may or may not be visible just after being affected. The symptoms could take upto 7 days to show. Some of the symptoms include:
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- body aches
- nausea and vomiting
Diagnosing swine flu
Your doctor can make a diagnosis by sampling fluid from your body. To take a sample, your doctor or a nurse may swab your nose or throat.The swab will be analyzed using various genetic and laboratory techniques to identify the specific type of virus and thereby determining the possible treatments.
Treating 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 to other people.
Two antiviral drugs are recommended for treating swine flu:
- the oral drugs 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.
Treating swine flu
Methods for treating swine flu are similar to the regular flu:
- Get plenty of rest. This will help your immune system focus on fighting the infection.
- Drink plenty of water and other liquids to prevent dehydration. Soup and clear juices will help replenish your body of lost nutrients.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers for symptoms such as headache and sore throat.
Outlook for swine flu
Severe cases of swine flu can be fatal. Most fatal cases occur in those with underlying chronic medical conditions, such as HIV or AIDS. People with these diseases have very low immunity and their body cannot fight with this virus thus making it more critical. But they can be cured by taking some preventionary measures and consulting the doctor at time. The majority of people with swine flu recover and can anticipate a normal life expectancy.
Preventing swine flu
The best way to prevent swine flu is to get a yearly flu vaccination. Other easy ways to prevent swine flu include:
- frequently washing hands with soap or hand sanitizer
- not touching your nose, mouth, or eyes (The virus can survive on surfaces like telephones and tabletops.)
- staying home if you’re ill
- avoiding large gatherings when swine flu is in season
It’s important to follow any public health recommendations regarding school closures or avoiding crowds during the flu season. These recommendations may come from the CDC, WHO, National Institutes of Health, or other governmental public health institutions.
Swine flu is very common and every year many people are affected across the globe. It is easily curable. So if you get affected by it, don’t panic, take rest and consult your doctor immediately. With proper medication and some rest you will be fine in no time.