The world has not yet recovered from the shock of Ebola Virus Disease and the Swine Flu or A/H1N1pdm09 Influenza Virus strikes again after its first appearance in 2009-10, during which time it was termed as a pandemic outbreak by the World Health Organization (WHO) because although it started in the state of Veracruz, Mexico, it soon started spreading worldwide. Although termed Swine Flu, it cannot be contracted by consuming pork and ham. It is called so because the Swine flu virus strain is closely related to the Swine influenza virus (SIV) – an endemic common in pigs throughout the world. Presently, it is one of the 3 common seasonal flu viruses that circulate the worldwide during the flu season and the symptoms of swine flu are quite similar to seasonal flu, but in severe cases it can cause death.
Swine Flu In India
With the initiation of the New Year comes the promise of a newer and better life. But the celebration of New Year in India has been clouded with the looming fear of Swine Flu when 3 people died of the disease by mid-December and 8 people were admitted in Hospital followed by two new cases of the flu in the national capital in January. The flu can affect anyone and therefore it is best to stay alert about the disease, its symptoms, ways of prevention and method of treatment in order to deal with it more effectively. The best and unsurpassed way to deal with the disease is following better personal hygiene and opting for flu vaccines.
Symptoms of Swine Flu
Swine flu symptoms are quite similar to the symptoms of the common flu, and it is difficult to diagnose it only by looking at the symptoms. A rapid flu test is the best way to confirm it.
- Sore Throat
- Muscle Pain
Other than these symptoms, the emergency warning signs are as follows and one must seek immediate professional medical attention if any of these symptoms appear:
- Difficulty breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Chest Pain or Pressure
- Abdominal Pain
- Severe Vomiting
- Low Temperatures
How does the H1N1 Swine Flu Virus Spread?
The Swine flu virus spreads like any other common flu virus – through air. The virus is present in the oral and nasal fluid of the affected individual and is spread to others via the droplets emitted through mouth and nose while sneezing and coughing. Once these droplets fall on any surface, the virus can survive on it up to the next 24 hours. Anybody who touches these affected surfaces can get infected by the virus. The virus is also present in suspended airborne droplets and people can get affected even by breathing in these droplets.
Who are at Higher Risk of Developing Swine Flu?
Swine flu has been shown to affect children and older adults who are above the age of 65 years. The flu can worsen in people suffering from diabetes and respiratory disorders.
- Veterinary doctors and pig farmers who deal directly with pigs are at highest risk of being infected.
- Pregnant women are at 6 times more risk of developing Swine flu compared to non-pregnant women.
- Infants and children under the age of 2 years are at higher risk of being infected.
- Those suffering from chronic diseases like asthma, chronic lung diseases and COPD are at higher risk of the disease.
- Those suffering from liver, kidney and blood disorders.
- Elderly folks who are above the age of 65 years.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Swine Flu
- Doctors take into account the patient’s history of association with people affected by the disease.
- A nasopharyngeal, oropharyngeal or nasal tissue swab test is done to identify the type of influenza virus.
- But this test is not dependable and lacks accuracy.
- For this reason, a Real-time RT-PCR test is done to make sure that it is the influenza A virus.
The Swine Flu treatment consists of these steps:
- Antiviral drugs oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) are administered to slacken the severity of the flu symptoms.
- Flu shots, Nasal Spray Vaccines and Intradermal shot are also existing and by far the best method of swine flu prevention.
Safety Precautions to Prevent Swine Flu
Although complete isolation from the flu virus is impossible because it is carried through air, yet some safety precautions during this flu season can help protect yourself and your loved ones from the Swine Flu virus.
- Every member of the family above 6 months of age should get vaccinated.
- Rinse and clean hands and face with soap and water or alcohol-based cleansers as frequently as possible.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth – that’s how the germs spread.
- Drink adequate fluids and keep yourself hydrated.
- Follow a healthy diet and get sufficient sleep to keep your Immune System running properly.
- Use disposable tissues to cover your nose while sneezing and coughing and throw it away immediately after use.
- Try to avoid contact with sick people.
- Keep the rooms open and well-ventilated.
- In case you are taking care of a flu victim, consult your physician and use preventive anti-viral drugs.
- If you have fever along with flu like symptoms, then stay in your home for 24 hours after the fever has subsided without use of medication.
What to Do if you are Affected by Swine Flu?
The Swine Flu can be treated at home if addressed at proper time. Health care providers prescribe anti-viral medications and antibiotics that can help in treating it effectively.
- Stay in your bed and take rest till you are feeling better.
- Drink lots of fluids – both warm and normal temperature ones in the form of fresh fruit juices, electrolyte drinks, soups and broths.
- Gargle using a concoction of warm water and salt 3 to 4 times a day to relieve sore throat. Prepare it by mixing 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a glass of lukewarm water.
- Using a humidifier to control room temperature is a good idea.
- Applying a cool compress using a clean damp cloth can help relieve discomfort in arms, legs and forehead.
- Using a warm blanket can help in pacifying the chills.
- Decongestants can help unblock stuffy noses, sinuses and chests.
- Muscle pain and aches associated with the flu can be treated using pain relievers like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc.
Home Remedies to Keep Swine Flu at Bay
Natural home remedies can also help in protecting against the H1N1 Swine Flu virus by boosting the disease fighting capacity of the Immune System.
- Vitamin A and C Rich Foods – Eating plenty of vitamin A and C rich fruits and vegetables such as oranges, lemon, pineapples, papaya, carrots, etc. helps in improving the functions of the Immune System by boosting the number of white blood cells.
- Zinc Lozenges – Consumption of zinc lozenges also help in stimulating immune function of the body.
- Garlic – Consuming a few cloves of garlic on a daily basis or taking Garlic oil supplements help in reducing the growth of the H1N1 virus.
- Vinegar and Honey Mix – Consuming a mixture of 2 tablespoons vinegar, 1 tablespoon honey with 1 cup of lukewarm water first thing in the morning helps in destroying microbes.
- Tulsi – Chewing 6 to 8 washed Basil (Tulsi) leaves early in the morning helps in improving immunity and keeps the throat and lungs clear.
- Turmeric – Having a glass of lukewarm milk with a pinch of turmeric every night can better equip the body against flu viruses.
Follow healthy habits and personal hygiene and take up a well-informed and equipped approach towards the Swine Flu virus so that you can deal with it in a more efficient way and don’t forget to make your family and friends aware about the symptoms, treatments and safety precautions of the flu.
Image Sources: boldsky.com, tabletsmanual.com, archive.hudsonalpha.org, sciencedaily.com.