Swine flu or H1N1 flu is one of the most recent of the pandemic disease. In 2014, 937 positive cases of swine flu were reported in India resulting in 218 deaths. Awareness and appropriate measures can help us fight this flu better.
What is Swine Flu?
Swine flu is a contagious respiratory disease of pigs. It is caused by type A influenza virus, which is the commonest cause of influenza in pigs. The swine flu virus was first identified in Mexico known as swine flu first time because it’s similar to flu viruses that affect pigs. The influenza virus that commonly circulates in pigs is called as “swine influenza virus” or “swine flu virus”. The most common strain of swine flu virus is type H1N1 though it can be of other subtypes like H1N2, H3N1, and H3N2.
Swine Flu Causes
People who work around or with pigs are at a greater risk of suffering from swine flu. The commonest cause of swine flu is inhalation or ingestion of droplets containing the virus from sneezing or coughing. Exposure to fomites infected with respiratory or gastrointestinal discharge can also increase the risk of swine flu infection
Swine Flu Symptoms
The incubation period (a period between exposure to infection and appearance of the symptom) for swine flu ranges between 2–7 days.
Symptoms of swine flu are like any other flu and most common symptoms include
Fever with chills
• Sore throat
• Body ache
The clinical spectrum of this disease is vast from self-limiting illness to respiratory failure and death. Severe illness and death are mostly associated with complications like viral and secondary bacterial pneumonia.
Individuals who are at a higher risk of severe complications include:
• Children under the age of 5 years,
• Adults above 65 years of age
• Underlying chronic medical conditions
• Pregnant women
Contagious period for swine flu is one day before the symptoms develop and lasts for 4–5 days after that. However, this can extend in individuals with a weakened immune system and children.
Diagnosis of Swine Flu
Diagnosis of swine flu is made based on the above-mentioned symptoms. The diagnosis is confirmed by laboratory testing of a nose and throat swab, which can differentiate influenza type.
Prevention and Control Measures of Swine Flu
The WHO recommends vaccination of high-risk groups with the seasonal influenza vaccine.
As swine flu is contagious, the following precautions should be taken to prevent swine flu:
• Wash hands with soap and water, especially after being in public
• Cover the nose and mouth while sneezing and coughing
• Use a facemask
• A separate well-ventilated place for affected individuals
• Drink plenty of water and clear fluids
• Avoid traveling in public when sick, for a minimum of 7 days
Treatment of swine flu is mainly supportive and consists of bed rest, cough suppressants, analgesics, and antipyretics. A severe case might need hospitalization and involves intravenous hydration and other supportive measures.
Antiviral medication is used in the treatment of seasonal human influenza. The following 2 types of antiviral medications are available:
• Neuraminidase inhibitors: Neuraminidase is a type of structure present on the surface of a virus that enables it to release from the host cells. Neuraminidase inhibitors block the function of viral neuraminidase and prevent its reproduction by budding in the host cells. Common examples of neuraminidase inhibitors include oseltamivir and zanamivir
• Adamantanes: They are crystalline compounds and inhibit initial stages of viral replication. Commonly used adamantanes are rimantadine and amantadine. The only drawback of using this medicine is the rapid development of drug-resistant variants.
Swine flu is an emerging pandemic disease. As symptoms of swine flu are similar to flu, precaution and prevention measures should be taken to prevent complications, especially in high-risk individuals.