Swine flu otherwise called as H1N1 Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease caused by the influenza virus of the type H1N1.
There are 4 types of influenza viruses. Type A, B, C and D. Swine flu is caused by type A influenza virus. These viruses are classified according to the protein molecule present on the surface of the virus. They are Hemagglutin ( H ) and neuraminidase ( N ). When H1 and N1 are present it is called Swine Flu. When H5 N1 is present it is called Avian Flu.
Swine flu is originally a disease affecting pigs. The virus slowly changed its genetic pattern (Mutation) and started infecting people.
Swine flu virus spread through air as droplet infection. When a infected person coughs or sneezes, the virus becomes air borne and inhaled by others (air borne infection). It can also spread by direct or indirect contact with infected materials like door handles, plates, tumblers etc. (some things the infected person touched).
An infected person can infect others from1 day before the fever starts and continue to infect others up to one week after the symptoms appear.
Young children and elderly people are more vulnerable. So also people with associated diseases like diabetes, asthma, COPD, cancer, patients on steroids and immunosuppressant, patients with liver or kidney problems and pregnant women are infected more often.
Persons with Swine flu may have high fever with or without chills, cough, sneezing, running nose, sore throat, head ache and body pain. Some of them may have nausea, vomiting, conjunctivitis and pain over the eyes.
Swine Flu is mostly diagnosed by the clinical findings. The following tests are done to confirm the diagnosis. RT-PCR: (Reverse transcriptase- polymerase chain reaction), Influenza immune florescent assay, Viral culture from throat swabs, Enzyme Immunoassay, Rapid influenza diagnostic test (rapid but less sensitive), Viral isolation and gene sequencing, Other routine investigations like blood sugar etc can be done.
Most of the swine flu patients recover without complications but those with reduced immunity may have complications.
Treatment is mainly supportive. Temperature and body pain can be controlled with Paracetamol.
Prevent dehydration by taking more fluids.
When diagnosis is confirmed antiviral drugs like Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or Zanamivir can be given.
Aspirin should be avoided to prevent Reyes syndrome.(affects the brain and liver leading to coma.)
Treat secondary infection if any with antibiotics. Treat the associated diseases.
Cough and sneezing can be controlled with cough syrup and antihistamine.
Patients must cover their nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing.
Isolate the patient.
Follow Personal protection procedure like wearing face mask, frequently washing hands, avoiding contact with infected materials and touching eyes and mouth with hand.
Routine vaccination is given to all persons aged above 6 months. Each year the vaccination has to be taken as the virus may change its gene pattern.
Swine flu vaccination 2018-2019 (Quadrivallent Vaccine): It gives protection against all four variants’ of the virus. H1N1 Nasal vaccine is also available,
Prevention is better than cure. So take vaccination every year before winter as swine flu epidemic is common during the period between September and March.