What is Swine flu ? Swine flu is a type of viral infection caused by Influenza A (type H1N1 2009) virus.
What is Influenza Virus?
It is a RNA virus that has infected the human species since hundreds of years. There are several species of Influenza that affect humans, animals and birds. Usually the species that affect animals do not cause infection in man. However every few decades the flu virus undergoes mutation and can jump the species. It is a contagious disease that can produce the following symptoms.
Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
Runny or stuffy nose
Muscle or body aches
Fatigue (very tired)
Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
How is Influenza virus classified ?
Influenza virus has certain antigens (particles) on its surface;
–Haemagglutinin (H1, H2 ..)
–Neuraminidase (N1, N2 ..)
It is classified using these particles.
How common is Influenza infection ?
Influenza has infected man since thousands of years. Modern science started understanding this disease since last 100 years. The history of Influenza in the last 100 years is shown below.
How is Influenza virus different from other virus like Hepatitis ?
Influenza virus mutates very easily. If a person has suffered from an older type of virus he can suffer again from the new mutated strain.
Why the name Swine Flu ?
In 2009 Influenza virus which was affecting pigs (Swine) mutated to cause infection in Man. Since this is a new strain against which we do not have immunity the rate of infection is high.
Swine Flu is infection from Influenza A (H1N1)Virus of 2009 strain.
How does Influenza spread ?
Influenza spreads by inhalation or touch of virus particles from an infected person. Persons suffering from flu will transmit droplets as they speak, sneeze and cough. These droplets containing the flu virus can cause infection in persons coming in contact with these droplets.
When can a person with flu spread infection to others ?
You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time. So a person can get infected anywhere including a crowded train,cinema hall, air conditioned office etc.
How dangerous is Swine Flu ?
Most infections of swine flu will be like usual seasonal fever. However young children, old age persons and persons with other underlying disease like heart ailments, asthma, persons with compromised immunity and uncontrolled diabetes need to be careful.
What are the symptoms that we need to look for ? Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections are examples of complications from flu. The flu can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may experience worsening of this condition that is triggered by the flu.
How is Swine flu treated ?
Antiviral agents are available for treatment. They are always given under medical advise to high risk groups. Everyone may not require them. Swine flu is a self limiting disease that cures itself after 5-7 days in most people.
How do we diagnose Swine Flu ? Excellent molecular tests are now available which can diagnose Swine flu rapidly within 2 hours. A throat swab or a nasal swab is taken for testing. The molecular test available from Cepheid (GeneXpert) can detect the following strains of Influenza,H1N1, H3N2, H5N1, H2N2 and H9N2. It also detects Influenza B and Influenza A not caused by the swine flu strain.
Do we need to panic if we have a Swine Flu infected person in our family ?
There is no cause of worry. Proper medical advice, and isolation is all that is required. Please do not get scared by what is said in the media.
What is the government doing for Swine Flu ?
Government and the municipal machinery is tackling this disease at a War footing. Stocks of anti viral agents are available in plenty with authorized chemist. Free treatment is available at municipal hospitals.
Are there vaccines available for Influenza ?
There are several vaccines available. Vaccination is required every year, best given in October before the Flu season starts in winter. It takes about a month for the vaccine to take effect. It should be noted that vaccine is strain specific and will not protect against all strains of Influenza.