Swine flu – all you need to know
Swine flu, also known as H1N1, got its name because it originated in pigs. Nobody gets swine flu from eating any form of pig meat. Initially, people did get flue from pigs (that’s why it is known as swine flu), but now the disease has nothing to do with pigs and is found in humans who have contact with the animals. Currently, there are many countries in the world that are facing a resurgence of this virus, which was an epidemic in 2009. Swine flu is extremely contagious and, like normal viral ailments and flu, spreads when a person comes in contact with the virus either directly through touch, breathing in infected air (as when an infected person coughs or sneezes) or touching a surface previously touched by a person who is suffering from this ailment.
Symptoms of swine flu
Unfortunately, swine flu, which can be deadly, presents the same symptoms as traditional flu so patients and even doctors may not know whether it is swine flu unless the person is tested for it. Symptoms include
- Body aches and pains
- Joint painsBlocked or runny nose
- Throat pain
In people who have a compromised immune system, are suffering from diabetes, heart disease, asthma or a chronic ailment, pregnant women, chemotherapy patients and even otherwise healthy persons, untreated swine flu may lead to respiratory failure. If you have flu-like symptoms and also suffer from breathlessness, vomiting, abdominal pain or mental confusion, it is crucial to either go into the emergency room or contact your doctor immediately.
Treatment for swine flu
Like ordinary seasonal flu, swine flu does well with rest and symptomatic treatment. In countries where swine flu is rampant, doctors may prescribe treatment with antivirals like oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza). High-risk cases including young children and the elderly may be advised hospitalization. Doctors may advise
- More liquids including water to prevent dehydration.
- Acetaminophen (paracetamol) for fever and pain.
- Antibiotics as a preventive for more serious secondary infections like pneumonia.
- Cough syrup if called for.
- Nose drops or sprays to unblock a severely blocked nose.
- Antihistamines to alleviate sneezing and nasal discharge.
These are common treatments for all kinds of flu.
Prevention is better than cure
Since swine flu can be dangerous, it is always better to try and prevent it, particularly if you live in an area where it is prevalent. It is important to
- Stay home and get rest if you are feeling ill.
- Avoid crowded places – if unavoidable, use a mask.
- Wash hands frequently, particularly if you have used public transport or touched objects (including doorknobs and counter/table tops) that have been touched by others. Use a sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable.
- If you have a cough or cold or sneeze, use a tissue to cover the excretions.
- Avoid contact with sick people.
- Get vaccinated against swine flu, particularly if you in a high-risk group.
It is important that you are vigilant and take the right precautions against swine flu.