Swine Flu

The H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu, is a new strain of the influenza virus. It was first detected in pigs, hence the name. This changed in 2009 when the first human case of the H1N1 virus was confirmed in a 5-year-old boy in Mexico. It quickly spread across the continents prompting the World Health Organisation (WHO) to declare it a pandemic. This has changed over the years and swine flu has become more like the regular flu. However, prevention is crucial as it spreads quickly from person to person. Just like the other influenza viruses, swine flu infects those cells in our body that line the nose, throat, and lungs.

Swine Flu: How Does It Spread?

As we saw that swine flu spreads quickly from person to person. This is how the transmission takes place:

  • Unlike the misconception, you cannot get swine flu by eating pork.
  • It spreads just like other influenza viruses. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, the virus spreads in the air. When you inhale that contaminated air, you too can get it.
  • It also spreads through touch. If an infected person coughs or sneezes and the droplets land on a surface, if you touch that surface, you can get it too. Also, the virus can enter your body if you touch a surface earlier touched by a sick person.
  • Those infected with the H1N1 virus can infect others a day before the symptoms appear in them. They can transmit it 7 days after falling sick. Children can spread it even 10 days after they get sick with the disease.

Swine Flu Symptoms

The symptoms of the H1N1 influenza virus are similar to the regular influenza virus. There are many and they differ from person to person. Here are the signs and symptoms for swine flu:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Body pain 
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Watery eyes that turn red

Complications Caused By Swine Flu

Although it has become like the regular flu, swine flu can cause certain complications and can also worsen pre-existing conditions:

  • It can cause pneumonia.
  • It can even lead to respiratory failure.
  • Swine flu can worsen chronic health issues such as asthma and cardiovascular diseases.
  • It can also have a neurological impact, such as confusion, seizures, etc.

Who Is More At Risk Of Getting Swine Flu?

The first human case of the H1N1 virus was detected in a 5-year-old boy. At that time, the disease was more common among children of age 5 and older and in younger adults. This was an anomaly, as most flu viruses primarily impact the old and the very young. However, now H1N1 has become like any other flu virus and infects people in a similar way. You can be at risk of getting the virus if you travel to an area or spend time where there are a large number of swine flu cases. There are other risk factors that can put you at a greater risk of getting H1N1:

  • Children under the age of 5.
  • Adults above the age of 65.
  • Immunocompromised people, such as those suffering from AIDS.
  • Pregnant women
  • Those suffering from chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, etc.
  • Children and adults under the age of 19 who are on long-term aspirin therapy.
  • Such people should take ample precautions against getting the swine flu virus.

Tips To Prevent Getting H1N1 Swine Flu Virus

Although swine flu spreads fast from person to person, there are certain preventive measures you can take to keep the swine flu virus at bay:

  • Firstly, stay away from places or areas where there is a large number of swine flu cases.
  • If you have to travel to such places, wear a mask and avoid touching any surfaces.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue while coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash your hands with a soap as much as possible and use a sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes.
  • Since the H1N1 virus also spreads through touch, clean surfaces as much as possible. 

If you are sick, avoid going to school or work. This will give you the time off to cope with the illness while protecting others from getting infected.

Home Remedies To Manage Swine Flu Symptoms

Swine flu has numerous symptoms and both its kind and intensity differ from person to person. Some might experience just mild symptoms, while for some they might get severe. Luckily, we have age-old remedies that can help you manage the symptoms:

Garlic: This widely used herb in the Indian cuisine contains allicin, which boosts the body’s protection against dangerous pathogens. It also boosts the body’s immunity. What you need is to have two pods of garlic with warm water on an empty stomach in the morning.

Ginger: One kitchen ingredient widely used in fever, cough and cold is ginger. It can help you ease the swine flu symptoms. You can add some ginger in your food. It’s a very common ingredient in chai (tea). You can also make a kadha with ginger, honey and pepper, which soothes cough and sore throat.

Tulsi: This revered plant in Hinduism is a medicinal powerhouse with several health benefitting properties, including easing cough, sore throat and in boosting body’s immunity. You can eat the tulsi leaves raw, or add them in your chai or kadha.

Turmeric: This yellow herb used extensively in Indian cooking is packed with antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It also strengthens the body’s immune system. Apart from adding a pinch of it in curries, you can make haldi milk by adding a dash of this spice in lukewarm milk. You can also add some pepper if you want.

Amla: Indian gooseberry, commonly known as amla, is packed with vitamin C, which boosts the body’s fight against infections. You can either have it raw, make its juice or even pickle it.

Diagnosis For Swine Flu

For virus diagnosis, the doctor will take a swab sample from your nose or throat. It will then be sent to a laboratory, where it will be diagnosed if you are infected with H1N1 virus or not.

Treatment For Swine Flu

In case of mild infection, you will need a medical intervention. In such a case, just focus on managing symptoms and boosting your immune system. However, if you are in the higher risk category, you might need a doctor’s interbention. He/she might give you antiviral drugs. However, these are generally reserved for those whose condition might worsen as when taken precariously, bodies can develop resistance to these. 

When To See A Doctor

Although there is no need to see a doctor if you develop common flu symptoms, such as fever, cough and cold. However, if you are in the ‘at risk’ category, do consult your doctor immediately. But in case you aren’t at a higher risk but experience the following, do consult a doctor right away:

  • If you have chest pain
  • If you have difficulty breathing or there is shortness of breath
  • If you have dizziness and seizures
  • If you have severe body pain
  • If your pre-existing medical conditions worsen

In case of a child, look out for the following signs:

  • If the child has difficulty breathing
  • In case of chest pain
  • If his/her lips turn blue
  • In case of severe body pain
  • Seizures, dizziness