Swine influenza or swine flu is a contagious human respiratory infection caused by an influenza strain that was first detected in pigs. Swine flu has comparable symptoms and management and is transmitted in the similar ways as the normal flu virus. The 2009 swine flu outburst was due to infection caused by the H1N1 virus.
- Adults over age 60
- Children under 5 years of age
- Children and youngsters who are getting long term aspirin therapy
- People with compromised immune systems (as in HIV)
- Pregnant women
- Individuals with chronic ailments such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes, neurological or metabolic disorders
- Obese People
Causes & Transmission
Swine flu is caused by a strain of influenza virus designated as H1N1.The transmission usually occurs from person to person. Swine flu is highly infectious. The flu is majorly spread through saliva and mucus droplets. When patients who are infected cough or sneeze, they spray minute drops of the virus into the air. If other people make contact with these drops or touch a surface where the drops landed, or touch something an infected person has recently touched, they can catch the disease. Swine flu is not caught by eating pork. The incubation period for this disease is about one to four days. The contagious period for swine flu in adults usually start one day before symptoms develop and it lasts about five to seven days after the person fall ill.
Swine flu Symptoms
- Throat ache
- Runny nose
- Body aches
- Nausea and vomiting
Serious complications are rare but can include pneumonia, a lung infection, and other breathing problems.
The doctor will collect sampling fluid from the body. To take a sample, the doctor may swab the nose or throat. The collected swab will be examined using various genetic and laboratory tests to identify the specific type of virus. The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) advice real time PCR as the method of choice for diagnosing swine flu.
The CDC recommends below guidelines for suspected H1N1 influenza
- Onset of acute febrile respiratory illness within 7 days of close contact with a person who has a confirmed case of H1N1 influenza A virus infection, or
- Onset of acute febrile respiratory illness within 7 days of travel to a community (within the United States or internationally) where one or more H1N1 influenza A cases have been confirmed, or
- Acute febrile respiratory illness in a person who resides in a community where at least one H1N1 influenza case has been confirmed.
The most effective method to prevent swine flu is to take a yearly flu vaccination. Some other simple ways to prevent swine flu include:
- Frequently washing of hands with soap or alcohol based hand sanitizer
- Healthy diet
- Avoid touching the nose, mouth, or eyes frequently with contaminated hands
- Regular exercise
- Staying at home if one is diagnosed with the flu
- Check temperature regularly
- Avoiding visiting public places frequently during swine flu season
- Is infecting household surfaces like door knobs or sink, which can be done efficiently with a diluted chlorine bleach solution
- It is necessary to follow any public health recommendations from CDC, WHO or other governmental public health institutions regarding school closures or avoiding crowds during the flu season.
Treatment for Swine flu
The most effective treatment for swine influenza infections in humans is prevention by vaccination. The first H1N1 vaccine marketed in 2009 was a nasal spray vaccine that was accepted for use in healthy individuals of age two to fifty. The inoculated vaccine, made from killed H1N1, became approved in the same year. This vaccine was more effective as it was effective approved for ages 6 months to the elderly, including pregnant females. A novel intradermal swine influenza vaccine preparation is also available in market. This vaccine is less painful when administered.
Two antiviral agents have been stated to help prevent or reduce the effects of swine flu. They are zanamivir (Relenza) and oseltamivir (Tamiflu), both of which are also used to prevent or lower influenza A and B symptoms. The above drugs should be taken only under doctor’s advice. The irrartional use of the drugs could cause viral resistance. These drugs are not effective in managing the flu symptoms already have been present for 48 hours or more. Some patients may require additional supportive measures such as ventilation support in case of severe infection. Studies suggest that these drugs are safe in pregnancy. Peramivir injection (Rapivab) is also an effective drug against swine flu which is approved by FDA. Amantadine and remantadine are also preferred in the treatment of swine flu.
Apart from administering antiviral drugs, supportive care at home or in a hospital helps in controlling elevated temperature, relieving pain and preserving fluid balance, along with identifying and treating any secondary infections or other medical problems.
Patients are advised to stay away from regular chores and get plenty of rest. This will strengthen immune system to fight against the infection. Drinking adequate quantity water and other liquids helps to prevent dehydration. Soup and fresh juices will help replenish the body of lost nutrients. Over the counter medications helps to ease symptoms such as headache and sore throat. Know more the question and answers about Swine Flu here.
In uncomplicated cases, the disease particularly begins to resolve after three to seven days, but the discomfort and cough can continue for about two weeks or more in some patients. Severe swine flu infection may need hospitalization that increases the length of time of infection to about nine to ten days.
Swine Flu Outbreak – 2009
The widespread occurrence of H1N1 infection (commonly known as outbreak) was first recognized in the state of Veracruz, Mexico in the year 2009, with confirmation that the virus had been present for months before it was formally called an epidemic. In June 2009 WHO and the U.S. CDC declared the outbreak a pandemic. Antivirals (oseltamivir or zanamivir) were prescribed for the patients with more severe symptoms or those included in high risk group. The outbreak began to diminish off in November 2009, and by May 2010, the number of cases were significantly lowered.