Swine Flu: Preventing H1N1 Virus

Swine flu virus typically causes respiratory infection in pigs. In 2009, a strain of swine flu virus, H1N1 virus, was isolated in humans. H1N1 causes respiratory infection in humans and is commonly referred to as swine flu. As this condition infected people around the globe, the World Health Organization declared it to be pandemic.

Symptoms of Swine Flu

Symptoms of this flu are similar to any other flu and include cold, cough, high-grade fever, body ache, joint pain, diarrhea, fatigue, and vomiting. Swine flu is a self-limiting disease in most of the cases and is managed symptomatically. Pain killers, cough suppressants, and antipyretics can be used.

In rare cases, swine flu becomes severe or results in complications like secondary bacterial or viral pneumonia. Symptoms of such cases include shortness of breath or fast and shallow breathing and hospitalization are required for respiratory support.

Diagnosis and Management

Any individual who is suspected to be infected by this virus is recommended to undergo laboratory investigation. It includes taking a swab from the nose or back of the throat. This sample is analyzed for the type of virus. However, a negative result does not rule out swine flu infection.

Management of swine flu depends on its severity as mentioned above. Antiviral medicines are used to prevent complications, especially in individuals who are at a higher risk for such complications. Pregnant females, anyone above the age of 65 years or below 5 years of age, immunocompromised individuals (like anyone suffering from HIV), and suffering from a chronic condition like liver or kidney disorder are a high-risk group for secondary complications of swine flu.

How to Prevent Swine Flu?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual flu vaccination for everyone above the age of 6 months. This vaccination is available as a nasal spray or an injection. Vaccination can be used for anyone who is between the age of 2–49 years and are not pregnant. It is not recommended for children between 2-4 years of age if they suffer from asthma or in individuals with low immunity.

Influenza spreads from human-to-human through secretions released while sneezing or coughing. It can also be transmitted by touching a surface contaminated by the virus.

The following precautions should be taken in preventing H1N1 virus infection by human transmission:

  • Maintain Hygiene: Wash hands frequently with soap and water, especially after coming from a public place. Hand-washing prevents viral infections, including swine flu. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers work well in destroying most of the viruses and bacteria.
  • Isolation: Anyone with flu-like symptoms like a sudden onset of fever, muscle ache, or cold should stay away from public transportation or work.
  • Avoid Contact: Social distancing is an effective technique. This means staying away from infected individuals or staying at home if the infection is spreading in a community.
  • Measures for Health Care Workers: Individuals who provide direct care to patients or health care workers should be cautious. They should use gloves, gowns, face masks, eye protection, and respirators.
  • Measures for an Infected Individual: They should be placed in a single-person room. They should avoid traveling in public and consume a lot of water and clear fluids.

Swine flu is emerging as a global threat and creating awareness about swine flu prevention is the need of the hour. Follow the above precautionary measures and stay safe. Moreover, consult a doctor in the presence of symptoms during an outbreak to prevent further complications.