What is H1N1 and how does it spread:
Swine flu is a highly contagious respiratory disease in pigs caused by one of several swine influenza A viruses. Transmission of swine influenza viruses from animals to humans is uncommon however humans to humans is the common form of transmission either by inhaling the virus or by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus, and then touching the mouth or nose. Infected droplets are expelled into the air through coughing or sneezing. However, the swine influenza virus can be transmitted to humans via contact with infected pigs or environments contaminated with swine influenza viruses.
Early Symptoms of H1N1:
- 100 F+ Fever
- Cough with a feeling of phlegm
- Sore throat
- Body aches
- Chills and sense of constant fatigue
- Intermittent diarrhoea and vomiting
- Nasal congestion
- Loss of appetite
Late symptoms or Secondary complications of H1N1:
Some patients develop severe respiratory symptoms, such as shortness of breath, and need respiratory support (such as a ventilator support). Patients can get pneumonia (bacterial secondary infection) if the viral infection persists, and some can develop seizures leading to life threatening conditions.
Since the symptoms of H1N1 are similiar to that of seasonal influenza one has to be very cautious in case of an outbreak of H1N1. The primary differentiating symptom is chronic respiratory complications which could deteriorate to a life threatening condition if left untreated. Lab testing of H1N1 is done by taking a deep nasal swab sample (nasopharyngeal swab) for testing, normally 48 hrs after the onset of the symptoms. In some cases giving of early test samples may show negative results and a repeat test maybe required depending on the severity of the condition.
Preventive vaccination is the best way to prevent or reduce the chances of becoming infected with the H1N1 influenza viruses in case of an outbreak.
Post infection two antiviral agents, zanamivir (Relenza) and oseltamivir (Tamiflu), are being prescribed to help reduce the effects of swine flu if taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.
The treatment is otherwise similar to a normal influenza attack:
- Drinking plenty of fluids to offset possible dehydration and need for intravenous fluids
- Flu medication for the body pain & fevers (to be monitored closely)
- Nutritious food
- Total rest from physically taxing activities
Prevention from further transmission to others:
- Wash hands and mouth frequently
- Avoid direct contact with other human beings (handshake, hugging etc)
- Wear a face mask preferably N95
- Disinfect clothes in a separate container with Dettol etc before washing
- Use separate cutlery & crockery during the infection period
- Use a separate towel/s
If the infected individual is given treatment and medications on time without delay (<48 hrs), assuming he/she is otherwise a healthy individual, it might take around 48 to 75 hours to get relief from the direct symptoms and seven to ten days to completely recover from the effects of the flu. This is however dependant on the severity of the infection and the immunity levels of the infected individual.
H1N1 is just like any other form of influenza, however it has the chances of becoming life threatening if not treated at the early stages. If you or someone known to you is suffering from such symptoms, direct them to their General Physician for professional advice and please take the vaccine to protect yourself and your loved ones from any exposure.