Swine flu

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Swine flu, known as pandemic influenza or swine influenza, is an influenza virus that makes individuals ill. It is a respiratory disease caused by the H1N1 virus. It was first detected in the United States of America in April 2009. The H1N1 virus spreads in a similar fashion as the flu from person to person. Commonly, this virus affects the wind pipes of pigs. From pigs, it then gets transferred to human beings. In humans, it causes cough, nasal secretions, reduced appetite, and restlessness. On 11th June 2009, W.H.O. declared H1N1 as a pandemic. Although the pandemic is over, it still occurs as regular flu. [1,2]

The swine flu epidemic had brought the country to a standstill by claiming over 1300 lives across the country. While the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Delhi were among the worst affected, the number of swine flu cases has been dipping for good. Swine flu virus survives in cold and humid climates; hence, with the arrival of summer and increase in temperatures, the prevalence of the virus has reduced. Moreover, the number of positive cases reported from across the country has seen a dip.

The latest swine flu news was reported from Uttar Pradesh where two lives were claimed by the virus taking the death toll to 18. Moreover, swine flu has affected states such as Punjab where the death toll has reached 47. Four new cases were reported from Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Patiala districts, taking the total number of cases in the state to 216. Furthermore, Maharashtra is one of the worst affected states where the death toll has crossed 200 as 88 new cases were reported from across the state.

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Symptoms

The symptoms of swine flu are similar to regular flu caused by influenza. It takes ~1–4 days for the symptoms to appear (incubation period). The symptoms of swine flu includes cold, cough, fever, fatigue, headache, sore throat, cough leading to shortness of breath, decreased appetite, vomiting, or diarrhoea (loose stools).

Other diseases that present with similar symptoms as that of swine flu are listed below.


  • Dengue

  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome

  • Arenaviruses

  • Cytomegalovirus

  • Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome

  • HIV infection and AIDS

  • Echovirus infection

  • Legionnaire’s disease

  • Adenovirus

  • Human parainfluenza viruses and other parainfluenza viruses[3]

Causes And Risk Factors

Causes

Swine flu is caused by the H1N1 virus and is a disease of the upper respiratory tract. It is caused by the H1N1 virus. This virus is reported in pigs and affects the wind pipes of pigs. From pigs, it then gets transmitted to humans. In humans, the symptoms of cough, reduced appetite, nasal secretions, and restlessness are observed.

Swine flu can spread from one person to another for a distance of 6 feet. Droplet infection is another mode of transmission for this virus. These infectious virus droplets can spread when an infected person coughs, talks, or sneezes. These droplets may infect other people in the surrounding area at a distance of 6 feet and infect them. The droplets can be inhaled into the lungs of other individuals which causes the virus to get transmitted from one individual to another. In certain cases, H1N1 spreads via infected surfaces, which indicates that a person can get infected with swine flu by touching an object or a surface that has the swine flu virus on it.[2]

Risk Factors

Individuals who are at risk for swine flu are as follows.


  • Children who are below 5 years of age

  • Individuals older than 65 years

  • Pregnant women

  • Chronic conditions such as lung diseases, diabetes, and

  • heart conditions

  • Weak immune systems

  • Neurological conditions[1]

Prevention

Preventive measures against swine flu are listed below:


  • Hand-washing at regular intervals

  • An approach of “hands-off-the face” to prevent touching of your face

  • Warm saline (salt) gargles at least twice a day

  • Cleaning your nostrils with warm saline water. This is possible by dipping cotton buds in warm saline water and swabbing your nostrils after cleaning them.

  • Consume foods high in vitamin C such as amla and citrus fruits to increase your immunity

  • Consume more warm liquids such as tea, coffee, and soups.

  • The warmth of these liquids pushes the virus from the throat into your stomach, thus killing them in the stomach’s acid.[2]


Preventive measures for those who look after pigs are as follows.

  • Avoid eating, drinking, or touching your face when tending to pigs or when you are close to pigs

  • Avoid taking toys, cups, pacifiers, baby bottles, and strollers in areas with pigs.

  • Avoid coming in contact with ill pigs or those pigs that look ill.

  • Wear personal protective equipment such as gloves, mask, and clothing when coming in contact with infected or suspected infectious pigs.

  • Minimize contact with pigs in barns

  • Call a veterinarian in case you suspect that your pig has an illness

  • Avoid coming in contact with pigs if you are displaying flu-like symptoms[1]

Diagnosis

A patient’s history and symptoms are required to diagnose swine flu. The additional confirmation of the diagnosis of swine flu can be performed with a RT-PCR test . This RT-PCR test is performed in a laboratory.[2]

Treatment

Anti-viral drugs such as Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and Zamanivir (Relenza) are used to treat swine flu. Tamiflu is a tablet and relenza is a nasal spray. Additional treatment with antibiotics may be required if pneumonia or chest infections develop. In case you do not need admission to a hospital, you are required to follow the ensuing precautions and hand and respiratory hygiene.


  • Increase your fluid intake

  • Rest adequately

  • Avoid contact with other people

  • Medication to control fever can be taken as advised by your doctor

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue while sneezing and coughing and carefully dispose of the tissue and wash your hands.

  • Using soap and water, wash your hands frequently

  • Clean contact surfaces such as handles of doors using a disinfectant

  • Follow the same precautions if you have children.[4]

Lifestyle/management

Do’s and Don’ts for swine flu are as follows.

Do’s


  • Cover your mouth and nose with a handkerchief when coughing or sneezing

  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water

  • Avoid touching your mouth, eyes, and nose

  • Avoid going to crowded places. If you suspect someone to be infected, stay an arm’s length away from them

  • If you have a cough, sneezing, or fever, avoid coming in contact with other individuals.

  • Eat nourishing food and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated

  • Rest adequately


Don’ts

  • Don’t shake hands with others

  • Don’t spit in public

  • Don’t take any medicines without first consulting your doctor.

  • Following foods that increase your immunity can be eaten to prevent you from getting swine flu.

  • Have a minimum of three servings of protein-rich food such as chicken, fish, meat, eggs, milk, and nuts.

  • Consume more orange and green fruits and vegetables.

  • They are rich in vitamin A which helps in improving your respiratory membrane.

  • Increasing vitamin C-rich foods as they have anti-viral properties

  • Foods such as eggs and seafood will help in forming antibodies against swine flu

  • Foods such as pumpkin seeds and apples help build antibodies against swine flu

  • Allicin found in foods such as raw garlic and cloves can help defend against swine flu

  • Iron-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables can help build immunity[5]

Prognosis And Complications

Prognosis

When admitted for swine flu, you are at an increased risk of getting acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), sepsis, and death. In cases where you have swine flu along with lung disease, neurological conditions, obesity, other co-morbidity or delay in getting admitted to the hospital, your prognosis is poor. [3]

Complications

The complications of swine flu are listed below.


  • Bronchitis (inflammation of the bronchi)

  • Sinus infection

  • Pneumonia

  • Ear infections

  • Worsens chronic health problems such as asthma and heart conditions

  • Death

Alternative Treatments

 

Ayurveda recommends that gugal, ral, neem leaf, and devdaru can be used as fumigation material for purifying the environment for preventing swine flu. The residential area should be fumigated with gugal and neem leaf daily. After Ayurveda medicine can be used for swine flu after advice and supervision from an ayurvedic doctor.


  • Boiling equal quantity of giloy, sooth, and puskarmul in four times that of water. This water requires to be reduced to 25%, and the mixture requires to be taken every 4 h.

  • Kwatha (Decoction): Mix four black peppers, five basil leaves, three cloves, and one teaspoon of fresh ginger in a glass of water. Then, boil this concoction till it decreases to half the quantity. Subsequently, add a teaspoon of honey to this after filtering it; this should be taken twice a day.

  • Mix half to one teaspoon of sitopaladi churna with a teaspoon of honey and have it twice a day.[2]

References


  • Swine Flu. CDC. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/swineflu/index.htm. (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/swineflu/index.htm)

  • Swine Flu. NHP India. Available at: https://www.nhp.gov.in/disease/respiratory/respiratory-tract/swine-flu. (https://www.nhp.gov.in/disease/respiratory/respiratory-tract/swine-flu)

  • H1N1 Influenza. NCBI. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513241/. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513241/)

  • Swine flu information for pregnant women. NHS. Available at: https://www.ashfordstpeters.nhs.uk/swine-flu. (https://www.ashfordstpeters.nhs.uk/swine-flu)

  • Healthy Foods that help avoid Swine flu. Organic Consumers Association. Available at: https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/healthy-foods-help-avoid-swine-flu. (https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/healthy-foods-help-avoid-swine-flu)

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