Till date, swine flu has claimed many lives all over the world and the very name of it brings extra worry and fear to us. Swine flu is an influenza caused by the A H1N1 virus. The only difference is that this virus has components of bird and pig influenza viruses, thereby making it deadly as humans don’t have immunity to it. It made headlines in the year 2009 when it was declared as a pandemic as it affected people throughout the world at the same time.
How the disease spreads?
Swine flu spreads easily from person to person, making it highly contagious and has the ability to cause global outbreak. It is a strain of influenza virus that mainly infects the pigs, but the main transmission to people isn’t from pigs, it is rather from one infected person to another. A simple sneeze can cause the germs to spread to thousands of people and the virus can linger on surfaces like door knobs, tables simply waiting to be picked up. The disease can spread through mucus particles or saliva and people usually spread it through coughing, sneezing or touching an infected surface and then touching the mouth or nose.
Some common symptoms of swine flu
The symptoms of this disease are very similar to most influenza infections. The patient may suffer from cough, fever or sore throat. Although symptoms like nasal congestion or mild respiratory illness may also be included. Some other additional indications may be diarrhea, headache, chills and vomiting. Severe cases also include pneumonia and respiratory failure. It can make conditions like asthma and diabetes very worse.
How to be safe
People who are at a higher risk of this infection include, pregnant mother, aged people, patients suffering from kidney or liver diseases, kids under the age of 2 or people suffering from heart problems, lung disorders or obesity. Such people should take utmost care and preventive measures to avoid getting infected by:
- Washing hands frequently with sanitizer
- Maintaining high levels of hygiene
- Using disposable tissues while coughing or sneezing
- Using surface sanitizers to prevent the accumulation of the germs
- Drinking plenty of water
- Boosting the immune system by eating healthy food
- Using a mask and gloves while going near an infected person
- Being informed about the latest guidelines and act in a calm manner
Diagnosis and treatment
People who are either experiencing any of the symptoms like fever, sore throat or respiratory illness or are detected having the virus should be considered highly contagious for the coming seven days. But younger children have the potential to be contagious for more time. Consulting the doctor immediately and performing the required tests can reduce the rate of mortality. Swine flu can easily be diagnosed through specific tests and the rates of the test are fixed at about Rs 4500 by the government while some private labs may charge it up to Rs 10,000.
It is important to start the treatment as soon as the person is detected positive. The patient should be monitored for fever or any other symptoms and should be recommended antiviral drugs like Zanamivir (Relenza) or Oseltamivir (Tamiflu). Majority of people infected usually make a full recovery with antiviral drugs, but in case the condition is severe, then the patient may require special care and attention and may also need to be admitted to the hospital.
Vaccination and vaccine safety
It is important to get the vaccine in case you have to live with someone infected with the virus. Get a vaccine as soon as it is available and it is the best protection for the season. With a flu shot, you are 60% less likely to require treatment in case you are infected. It offers some other benefits like reducing the risk of the illness, time lost from work, hospitalization and even deaths. Early immunization is most effective, but you should consult the doctor before taking any vaccines.
Although there are mild side effects of vaccination, like redness of the arms, nausea or mild headache, but it has a very good safety track record.
Thus to conclude, we can say that by remaining well informed about the disease and following the preventive measures and maintaining social distance from large crowds or gatherings, you can protect the community from spreading the illness.