What is Swine Flu?
“Swine flu” from the name itself tells us that this type of flu is related to pigs also known as Swine. It is basically a virus that causes this disease. It is mostly seen in pigs but can also affect humans and other animals.
The virus that causes this disease is also called as H1N1 virus. This H1N1 is a viral strain of the Influenza A virus subtype.
It is a very smart virus as it is highly contagious disease and can spread rapidly from one person to another.
The symptoms of the swine flu and a normal flu or influenza are very similar. But a normal influenza is not fatal whereas swine flu is fatal is distinguished only during the final.
This makes it difficult to identify the swine flu in its earlier stage and when it is finally identified it is very difficult to cure the patient.
The swine flu virus has developed from the Spanish flu virus which caused a lot on deaths in 1918. This virus then became common in the pigs. In India, this swine flu outbreak due to the H1N1 virus was first seen in 2009.
Since then, every year there are more than hundreds of people dying due to this disease in India itself.
In India, the states of Rajasthan and Gujrat have the highest number of cases being reported for swine flu.
The swine flu was declared as a pandemic in 2007 by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
A pandemic disease is a type of disease which spreads in the local region as well as has the capacity to spread in the other regions, also worldwide.
What does this Virus look like?
Swine flu virus as we have heard is very dangerous to the human body. It can also cost someone their life. So there might be a possibility that the virus must be very big and can also be as huge as a missile. But that is not the case.
In reality, the H1N1 virus is a very tiny virus ranging from only 80-120 nanometre which is invisible to the human eye. It is almost spherical in shape and has a lipid membrane which protects this virus.
The genetic material of this virus is the RNA (Ribose Nucleic Acid) and not the DNA (Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid) like in humans.
The virus is named H1N1 in which H is for the hemagglutinin sugar and N is for the neuraminidase sugar.
Is the H1N1 Virus Contagious?
This virus as we now know is highly contagious and has the capacity to spread rapidly. It can spread from one person to ten other people present in his/ her surroundings at one time.
Therefore, it is very important to maintain a proper distance with the patient as we won’t understand when the virus entered our body and the next day we start suffering from the similar symptoms.
It is an air-borne disease that is basically spreads through the air. It can spread through sneezing, coughing, in the hospital where there are some patients suffering from this disease, it may also spread from the clothes of the patient.
It can also spread through direct contact, for example, sexual contact, using used syringes, not maintaining proper hygiene, also people who might have been in contact with pigs are susceptible, the under cooked meat or when the meat of the pig (pork) if not washed properly have chances of containing the H1N1 virus (but the chances are minimum), etc.
All these factors can spread the H1N1 virus leading to swine flu.
Once the virus enters the body, it will take an average of days to show the symptoms of the disease. Most of the times the symptoms are similar to that of the common influenza. These symptoms then later become severe.
Usually, when a person goes to the doctor with common flu like symptoms they are given antibiotics, etc. but nowadays after a period of 2-3 days, a confirmatory test is done for the patient and his health status is determined. This confirms if the person is suffering from swine flu or not.
If it is confirmed that the person is infected by an H1N1 virus, then usually he is given the proper antiviral drug medication.
This medication course is also given to the close members of his family that is with whom the patient lives. This precaution is taken to prevent the family members to get infected.
Usually, people suffering from this disease are very good source of the H1N1 virus.
Therefore, the family members of that patient need to be specific about avoiding all the possible contaminated objects. Hence, they are also given the medication course just to prevent them from getting infected.
Symptoms of Swine Flu
The symptoms of Swine Flu are most of the time same as those for regular human influenza. It also depends on the patient’s immune system and how his body deals with the virus.
The main symptoms of the swine flu are fever, cough, sore throat and runny nose.
High Fever is very common and present almost every case. Other common symptoms are muscle pain, headache, sore throat, watery eyes, body ache, throat infection and fatigue.
Some people also have vomiting and diarrhoea, but never as the only symptom.
Usually, the swine flu if not treated properly or if the person is already diseased and on top of that infected with H1N1 virus then there are chances of death of that person.
Most of the time the person dies due to respiratory failure, pneumonia, high fever causing neurological problem, dehydration due to excess diarrhoea and kidney failure also.
Yes, the H1N1 virus has a liking for pregnant women, children under the age of 2 years, an already diseased person that is people having weak immune system.
It affects such people at a very rapid rate and the symptoms are also seen earlier compared to that of the normal patient.
We all know what preventive measures need to be taken in order to maintain the clean and hygienic environment. Some of them included, washing hands often with soap and water.
Alcohol-based hand cleaners can also be used and are equally effective.
If you suspect that your hands are not that clean and some germs in it then avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth. Try to avoid close contact with sick people especially the ones infected this virus.
Try to avoid unnecessary visits to the ER and urgent care centres because those are the places where you are more likely to be exposed to Swine Flu.
If you are infected with the virus already then try to make sure to avoid spreading the virus in the environment.
This can be done by covering your mouth while sneezing and coughing, avoid spitting on the roads or open places as there are high chances of the virus to spread from here.
Stay at home for at least 6-7 days till the contagious effect of your infection goes away.
Also, nowadays, the vaccine for common influenza is taken as a precaution against H1N1 virus. This vaccine is taken once a year.
These are the most common and easy to follow rules for avoiding the spread and infection of the H1N1 virus.