What is Swine flu?
It is a viral infection caused by Influenza virus named H1N1 which is initially thought to have been transmitted from pigs. The virus constantly mutates and there are many other variants of Influenza prevelant like H3N2,
What are the symptoms of Swine Flu?
They are similar to the seasonal flu symptoms like fever, nasal stuffiness/congestion, runny nose, cough, extreme weakness and myalgia, sore throat etc. In some instances there can be breathlessness, extreme fatigue/confusion, loss of appetite or nausea which can mean possibility of Pneumonia and the need to seek immediate medical advice.
Should I get tested for Swine flu?
As per the management guidelines for India patients can be categorised in three groups
Category- A Patients with mild fever plus cough / sore throat with or without body ache, headache, diarrhoea and vomiting – No testing of the patient for Influenza of treatment is required but should be closely followed by the treating physician
Category-B If there is high grade fever and severe sore throat, may require home isolation and treatment. Testing for Influenza is optional. Special caution to be used for high risk people like children, pregnant women, elderly aged 65 years or older, people with lung diseases, heart disease, liver disease kidney disease, blood disorders, diabetes, neurological disorders, cancer and HIV/AIDS;
Category-C If there is breathlessness, chest pain, drowsiness, fall in blood pressure, sputum mixed with blood, bluish discolouration of nails. All these patients require testing, immediate hospitalization and treatment.
How can I be tested for Swine flu?
The testing for Influenza is done by a nasal swab. The testing should be done at the government approved facility and advisories are issued from time to time about this.
How is it transmitted?
It is spread while coughing or sneezing through droplets. By inhaling the air or by touching any surface like doorknob or sink where the drops have landed or by touching something an infected person has recently touched, you can catch H1N1 swine flu.
What should I do if I have symptoms?
You should seek medical advice and work out if you need to be tested and treated or in some cases admitted. You should limit spread of the infection by home isolation and by using N95- N99 face mask.
Should I get vaccinated (flushot) now?
The ideal time for Influenza vaccination is from October to November every year. However it can still be administered; multiple formulations are available for the same.
How can I protect myself?
By staying vigilant, avoiding people with flu like symptoms, staying well hydrated, using N95-N99 face mask in crowded places, frequent hand washing and good diet and exercise. You should seek help early if you develop symptoms
How is it treated?
It is treated by antiviral antibiotics like Oseltamivir (Tamiflu), peramivir (Rapivab), and zanamivir (Relenza) seem to work best, although some kinds of swine flu don’t respond to oseltamivir. This is best decided by the treating physician