Swine Flu: Know More


Swine Flu is a number one health concern the world over. The HI1N1 flu or Swine Flu was first detected in US in April 2009. The worst affected areas initially were Canada and Mexico before H1N1 flu cases began to emerge in other areas of the world. In a short span of four months, the disease has spread to almost all regions in the world. World Health Organization has called H1N1 as pandemic which means a big epidemic that involves the entire country or perhaps the world. Usually, the signs of a pandemic are when a virus without any immunity to stop it, spreads across various parts of the world.

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Risk factors of Swine Flu
Swine Flu spreads from person to person in the same way as regular seasonal influenza viruses spread. People with high risk for seasonal flu are also at high risk for H1N1 flu. For example, people above 65 years of age, pregnant women, children below 5 years of age and those with chronic medical conditions and lifestyle diseases like diabetes are at high risk.

Symptoms of Swine Flu
In children, the symptoms of H1N1 virus include:
1. Rapid Breathing or Difficulty in breathing.
2. Grayish or Bluish Skin Color
3. Dehydration
4. Persistent of severe vomiting
5. Not able to interact properly with people, become irritable
6. Flu like symptoms, bad cough and fever

In adults, the symptoms of swine flu include:
1. Shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing
2. Pain in chest or abdomen
3. Sudden dizziness or loss of energy
4. Severe or continuous vomiting
6. Flu like symptoms, bad cough and fever

The symptoms of H1N1 is similar to the ones that people get in regular, seasonal flu and so things like fever, sneezing, cough, body ache, head ache, shivering, sore throat and fatigue are common. Diarrhea and vomiting are also symptoms that have been associated with some cases of this flu, also known as Influenza A.

How do I catch swine flu?
H1N1 is transmitted the same way like seasonal flu. Flu viruses are spread usually from person to person through sneezing or coughing by people who have influenza. Some people may become infected with the deadly H1N1 by touching something that has virus on it and then bringing to their nose or mouth.

How can someone with swine flu infect it to someone else?
Infected people can actually infect others from the first day itself, even before they themselves get any symptoms. This means there are also chances that one can pass on the symptoms of flu even before she or he knows that she or he is sick.

How do I protect myself from swine flu? How can I take precautions against H1N1virus?
There is no vaccine that can protect you or be prevention against H1N1 Flu. You can only maintain hygiene and take care to prevent spread of germs that can lead to illnesses like influenza. Here are the ways in which you can prevent yourself against the flu:

1. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough. Throw the tissue in the trash after you sneeze into it.

2. Wash your hands with a liquid handwash like Dettol or Lifebuoy, especially after you cough or sneeze.

3. Do not touch your mouth, eyes or nose. Germs can spread in this manner.

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4. Avoid contact with people who are infected. This is sad but then the disease is highly infective.

5. If you are sick with influenza, stay at home and do not go to school or work. Limit your contact with people so that they do not get infected.

6. Do not venture into crowded spaces.

7. Increase the airflow in your room by opening the windows for proper ventilation.

8. Sleep well, eat nutritious food and practise healthy habits so that you are physically active and immune to the flu.

How long can the Swine Flu virus stay on things like doorknobs and furniture?
According to medical experts, the influenza virus can stay on environmental surfaces and infect people from 2 to 8 hours after being deposited on things like door knobs, books etc. Germs of H1N1 can spread when a person touches infected areas or infected people and then touches their eyes, ears, nose or mouth. Cough droplets or sneeze from an infected person can travel through the area. When a person comes in contact with droplets of sneeze of another person or touches things like books or desk of that person that is contaminated with sneeze droplets, and touches his or her own eyes, mouth, nose etc; before washing hands, one can contract the virus.

What are the medicines and treatment options for Swine Flu?
Taking oseltamivir(Tamiflu) or zanamivir(Relenza) can treat H1N1 but they should be taken in the early stages of the disease. Antiviral drugs or prescription medicines can make your immune system strong and keep the flu viruses at bay and stop them from reproducing in your body. So, you should start taking antiviral drugs within two days of getting H1N1 or influenza symptoms.

How do I prevent getting H1N1 in high risk areas?
If you live in places where people have been infected with H1N1 virus or have influenza like symptoms mentioned above, then you should stay home and avoid contact with these people. If you develop flu like symptoms, do not leave things to chance and take instant medical care. Your health care provider or doctor will be able to tell you whether H1N1 flu testing is required.

Does WHO recommend using a MASK?
If you are not sick or if you are not living in high risk areas, it is not required to wear a mask. If a near and dear one is sick with H1N1, you need to wear a mask since you will be in close contact with the ill person. Dispose the mask after contact and wash and clean your hands thoroughly. Using the mask correctly is important because using it incorrectly will spread infection.

How can I differentiate between H1N1 Swine Flu and seasonal flu?
You cannot tell the difference without a medical verdict on it. Since symptoms for both the diseases are same like cough, headache, sneezing, fever, runny nose etc, only your doctor will be able to say if you have H1N1 virus. In case, your doctor suspects symptoms, they will have your blood sample, nasopharyngeal (nose to mouth) and throat swab to laboratories.

Home remedies for swine flu:
There are no home remedies, especially when you have to figure out if it is H1N1 or season flu. The H1N1 requires anti-viral drugs because treating it is an emergency issue. However you can prevent the spread of swine flu and strengthen your immune system by doing the following:
1. Wash your hands properly before having a meal, not just with soap and water.
2. Wear face mask before going outside. If someone is coughing or sneezing near you, cover your nose and mouth with palms or a hanky. Swine flu gets into the body through the mouth and nose.
3. Drink lemon balm tea because it has anti-viral properties.
4. Chew fresh garlic cloves because they have antiviral properties as well.
5. Steam inhalation with chamomile or eucalyptus thrice a day can relieve lung congestion and prevent swine flu symptoms.

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