Climate changes are one of the major risk factors of transmission of many contagious diseases. Among all contagious diseases, influenza virus infections are predominant during the winter season. In recent years, swine flu outbreaks all over the world raised a major health concern as they caused high mortality and morbidity.
What is Swine Flu?
Swine flu or H1N1 flu is a respiratory tract infection caused by Type A influenza (H1N1) virus. It’s called swine flu because in the past, the people who caught ii had direct contact with pigs.
H1N1 virus made nearly 22,000 people ill and killed 125 of them by August, 2009. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared it as pandemic (outbreaks all over the world) infection.
Anatomy (structure) of H1N1 Virus
- This virus infects cells in the lining of the human respiratory (pulmonary) tract and lungs.
- These are typically round but can also be amorphous or even form long, string-like filaments.
- It has an outer lipid layer and inner viral protein M1 (matrix protein) layer. This protein layer forms a shell, gives strength and rigidity to the lipid envelope.
Transmission of Swine Flu Virus
H1N1 viruses can be transmitted from pigs to people and vice versa. Humans from pigs catch infection due to close contact with the infected pigs.
Human-to-human transmission occurs when an healthy person comes in close contact with an infected person.
Despite name, it is not transmitted from eating bacon, ham, or any other pork products. Transmission is the same way as the seasonal flu.
When an infected person cough or sneeze
Spray tiny drops of virus into the air
Direct contact/touch with these droplets
Swine flu (H1N1 flu).
People who got this infection can spread it before they manifest any symptoms and as many as 7 days they get sick. Kids can be contagious as long as 10 days.
Etiology (causes) of Swine Flu
- Touching germ-covered surface
- Exposure to air infected with virus
- Close contact with pigs
- Children and older people (age above 65)
- Immune deficiency (Eg: AIDS)
Signs and Symptoms of Swine Flu
1. Frequent Symptoms
- Fever (high, but is sometimes absent)
- Stuffy and running nose
- Sore throat
- Body aches
- Fatigue/tiredness (extreme)
- Vomiting and diarrhea (occasionally).
2. Serious Symptoms – in children
- Fast breathing or difficulty breathing (tachypnea or dyspnea)
- Skin may become grey or blue (cyanosis) color
- Severe and persistent vomiting
- Less fluid intake
- Rash with fever
- Isolation ( child doesn’t talk or interact with others).
3. Serious Symptoms – in adults
- Difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
- Flu (sneezing and coughing)
- Chest pain or pressure
- Abdominal pain or pressure
- Vomiting (severe or sometimes won’t stop).
1. Self check/ At-home testing
There are no self testing kits available to diagnose the swine flu infection. Aware of signs and symptoms aids in early detection and treatment.
2. Laboratory Tests
Rapid Flu Test: They collect the mucous from the nose and throat for testing.
How Swine Flu is Treated?
- Oseltamivir (Tamiflu)
- Zanamivir (Relenza)
- Peramivir (Rapivad).
Analgesics (pain killers):
- Aspirin (contraindicated children below 16yrs)
- Acetaminophen (parecetamol).
Swine Flu vaccine:
Vaccine that protects against seasonal flu also protects against the H1N1 Swine flu. Either way, it alerts your immune system to attack viruses. This vaccine is available as a nasal spray or a shot.
To halt fatal complications, it is safe to prevent the Swine Flu outbreaks. Let us practice some easy and effective preventive measures to protect the children and every one from this fatal illness.
- Stay away at least 6 feet away from people with flu
- Cover Your mouth when you and others coughing and sneezing
- Don’t leave home if you have flu symptoms
- Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and ears
- Don’t hold or attend parties during the outbreaks of flu
- If you’re a parent, educate your child about the swine flu
- Eat fresh vegetables and fruits to boost your immunity and energy.
Practice healthy and active lifestyle measures and stay away from the swine flu.
Swine Flu Complications
Swine flu is very contagious and if untreated/neglected, it brings life threatening complications like….
1. Pulmonary complications: Bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia.
2. Cardiac complications: pericarditis, myocarditis.
3. Central Nervous System complications: Encephalopathy, encephalitis, seizures (fits), toxic shock syndrome.