Swine Flu (H1N1 Flu)

1 What is Swine Flu (H1N1 Flu)?

Swine flu is a type of influenza that is transmitted from pigs to human beings.This respiratory infection was first recognized in 2009. Within a few days of its recognition, many cases of swine flu were reported worldwide and it was declared as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization.

This pandemic was declared over in August 2010. However, swine flu is still circulating in humans as a seasonal flu virus and protection against the strain was included in the seasonal flue vaccine for 2015-2016.

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2 Symptoms

Swine flu (H1N1 flu) symptoms develop on the first to third day after exposure to the virus. The signs and symptoms of swine flu include:

3 Causes

The cause of swine flu is the H1N1 virus. This virus is endemic in pigs worldwide. It can be transmitted from pigs  to human beings through air droplets or from direct contact with the viruses.

The H1N1 virus infects the cells of the respiratory tract. There is no evidence to prove that a person can get swine flu by eating pork.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a method of choice for the diagnosis of swine flu .

5 Treatment

Most cases of swine flu only require symptomatic treatment.

Antiviral drugs like oseltamivir ( Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) can be prescribed within the first few days to relieve the severity of the symptoms. Because flu viruses develop resistance quickly, these drugs should be reserved for only those who are at a high risk of developing complications. High-risk groups include:

  • Children younger than 5 and people who are over the age of 65,
  • Pregnant women,
  • People who are obese,
  • People with a suppressed immune system like HIV patients,
  • American Indians or Native Alaskans.

People who have an underlying respiratory disease may need more medications to reduce the risk of complications.

6 Prevention

In order to prevent swine flu (H1N1 flu) people older than 6 months are recommended to take seasonal flu vaccinations as prophylaxis.  The flu vaccine also provides protection from two or three other strains of influenza viruses that are expected to be common during the flu season. The vaccine can be given intravenously (IV) or as a nasal spray. It is not advisable for people younger than 2 or older than 50, pregnant women, people allergic to eggs, those with asthma or a compromised immune system or people receiving aspirin therapy to take the nasal spray of the vaccine.

The following measures can be taken to limit the spread of swine flu:

  • Sick people should stay home in order to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others.
  • Washing hands frequently with sanitizer or soap and water.
  • Covering the mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing.  

7 Lifestyle and Coping

Taking the following lifestyle measures may help relieve the symptoms of swine flu:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids like water, juice and hot soups to prevent dehydration.
  • Getting enough rest.
  • Taking over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB). Do not give aspirin to children since it may cause Reye's syndrome, which is a life-threatening condition.

8 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with swine flu (H1 N1 flu).

Living in an area where there are a lot of people with swine flu or working on swine farms can increase the risk of getting swine flu.

Some of the complications associated with swine flu include:

  • Worsening of chronic diseases like heart diseases or asthma,
  • Pneumonia,
  • Signs and symptoms of neurological disorders like confusion or seizures,
  • Respiratory failure,