What is swine flu?
Swine flu, also known as the H1N1 virus, made headlines in 2009 when it was first discovered in humans, and became classified as a pandemic. It originated from pigs and now spreads from person to person. It is a new strain of influenza and the symptoms are very similar to regular flu. A person suffering from swine flu experiences symptoms of barking cough, decreased appetite, nasal secretions, and listless behaviour. Vaccination is the surest way to prevent becoming infected with influenza viruses.
How does swine flu occur?
Swine flu disease spreads among pigs through direct and indirect contact, aerosols, and from infected pigs that do not experience symptoms. Signs of swine flu in pigs that do experience the symptoms include fever, depression, breathing difficulties, coughing continuously, discharge from the nose or eyes, sneezing, eye redness or inflammation, not eating.
The majority of pig to human infections to date have occurred due to the swine virus H3N2v being transmitted directly from pigs to humans, and most of the reported infected people were associated with pig farms.
Swine flu spreads from person to person, either by inhaling the virus when an infected person sneezes or coughs, touches surfaces that are contaminated with the virus, then touches the mouth or nose.
There are three different types or strains of influenza virus that affects humans - A, B, and C. Strains A and B are more hostile than C. They cause the annual endemic with many people suffering from the symptoms of high fever, coughing, headaches, sniffling, and body aches. Swine flu is of the H1N1 influenza subtype of Influenza A. However, swine flu viruses can sometimes come from other subtypes, such as H1N2, H3N1, and H3N2.
Who is prone to swine flu?
People who at a risk of contracting swine flu include:
- newborn babies and children up to 16 years of age.
- pregnant women
- those who are 50 years of age and older
- those suffering from medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease (asthma, COPD, emphysema), diabetes or those with weakened immune systems
- those who are morbidly obese
- those who are immunosuppressed due to certain medications or HIV
What are the causes of swine flu?
Swine flu is very contagious and spreads through saliva and mucus particles. It can spread from person to person through:
- touching a contaminated surface and then rubbing eyes or nose
What are the symptoms of swine flu? How is swine flu diagnosed?
The most common symptoms of swine flu include:
- fever higher than 100° F
- pain in the muscles
- body ache
- throat pain
- high fever
- loss of appetite
- running nose
- chest congestion
You can visit a general practitioner if you think you have symptoms of swine flu. To diagnose swine flu, the doctor will swipe the inside of your nose or mouth with a swab and send the swab for testing. No blood test is required for diagnosing, though at times, the doctor may suggest blood tests to rule out any other form of infection apart from swine flu.
What are the complications of swine flu?
The complications of swine flu can include:
- worsening of existing chronic conditions, such as heart disease and asthma
- neurological signs and symptoms, ranging from confusion to seizures
- respiratory failure
What is the treatment for swine flu?
The doctor may prescribe cough suppressants, and antipyretics and analgesics, to treat swine flu depending on the condition of the patient. Severe cases of swine flu may require intravenous hydration. Patients are encouraged to stay at home in complete bed rest and avoid contact with other people as much as possible.
Questions answered by trusted doctors
Did you know?
Swine flu in India 2017
Swine flu has claimed over 1,000 lives so far this year (2017) , which is four times more than deaths recorded last year (2016), with a total of 22,186 cases reported across the country till date.
Swine flu In India in 2009
The country witnessed the worst outbreak of the H1N1 influenza in the pandemic years of 2009-10 when the disease killed over 2,700 people and affected around 50,000 others.
Maharashtra highest affected
Maharashtra has the highest death toll with 437 people succumbing to H1N1infections
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