Contributed by- Dr. Snehal Singh
Swine flu (H1N1) is a viral infection that has taken the face of a pandemic since few years. It is a contagious infection, which easily spreads like common flu and has similar symptoms as well but can take a dangerous turn, in some cases. Swine flu commonly spreads during the flu season but its cases are reported at other times too. Effective diagnostic methods and treatments of swine flu are available. Knowing about the spread and symptoms of swine flu can help to seek timely treatment.
Causes And Spread Of Swine Flu
Swine flu infection is caused by the H1N1 virus and is also called H1N1 flu. Though the common myth surrounding it that it spreads by eating pork, but this is not true. Rather, it spreads from an infected person to a healthy person. Those who are continuously exposed to people infected with swine flu are at greater risk. People with reduced immunity are at greater risk.The virus spreads easily in crowded areas and in places with large groups. Hence, swine flu can potentially spread in schools, day-cares, hostels, health care centres or other places where people come in close contact.
Swine flu spreads through droplet infection, which means the virus spreads through mucus or saliva of an infected person. An infected person can spread swine flu by sneezing, coughing or by touching objects with infected secretions. You can catch infection when you are exposed to virus particles in the air or when you come in contact with such infected surfaces. Simple objects of common use like door handles, desks, books, taps, utensils, etc. can contribute to the spread.
People who are at greater risk of swine flu include
- Younger children, elderly adults and pregnant women
- People who have reduced immunity, due to illnesses or certain medications
- People having diabetes, heart diseases or asthma
Symptoms Of Swine Flu
It usually takes about one to three days after the exposure to the H1N1 virus to show swine flu symptoms.
Swine flu shows symptoms similar to common flu. The commonest symptoms of swine flu include a sore throat, cough, sneezing, running nose and watery, itchy eyes, which may or may not be associated with fever. People with swine flu may experience headaches, body pain, joint pains and fatigue. Some people may also notice gastric symptoms like nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting or diarrhoea.
Warning symptoms of swine flu, which may indicate the risk of complications include
- Chest congestion, pneumonia or respiratory failure
- Worsening of existing medical illnesses, asthma or heart diseases
- Fainting, confusion, seizures or neurological problems.
Diagnostic Tests For Swine Flu
A rapid flu test can be done to evaluate the symptoms of swine flu. However, the most accurate test that helps in the diagnosis of swine flu is the laboratory swab test. In this, a swab from the nose and back of the throat is taken, which detects the presence of the virus. Additional investigations like blood tests, chest x-ray and others may be done, if found appropriate.
Treatment Of Swine Flu
In most cases, which are self-limiting, only rest may be helpful. But for cases, which may need aggressive treatment of swine flu, hospitalization is considered. Swine flu treatment may be aimed at relieving symptoms and reducing pain and fever. Specific treatment is mainly considered for people who have severe symptoms, are hospitalized or those who are at risk of complications. The most commonly used swine flu treatment includes antiviral drugs, as prescribed by the treating doctor.
Swine flu needs to be managed with plenty of rest to allow the body to fight the infection. Symptomatic relief helps to reduce symptoms and increased intake of fluids can help to maintain hydration.
So, be aware. Prevent swine flu as much as possible. But if you note the symptoms, consult your doctor at the earliest.
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