Sunday, October 24, 2010

Swine Flu

The rise of incidences of Swine flu (also known as Swine influenza) has been one of the most concerning developments of year 2009. The disease we commonly refer to as swine flu is an infection caused by a virus that was traditionally believed to affect only pigs. It was also thought that people usually do not get the swine flu. However, over the last year or two it is seen that human infections can and do happen.

The media label ‘swine flu’ was given to the flu that is caused by a new strain of pig-origin influenza A pandemic virus (H1N1). This is very similar to the earlier instance of the media label of ‘avian flu’ that was caused by the recent Asian-linage HPAI (High Pathogenic Avian Influenza) H5N1 strain that is still affecting innumerable bird species in several countries. The virus that causes swine flu is contagious and can spread from human to human.

On June 11, 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that a global pandemic of new strain of influenza A (H1N1) was underway by raising the worldwide pandemic alert level to Phase 6. This action was a reflection of the spread of the new H1N1 virus, not the severity of illness caused by the virus. At the time, more than 70 countries had reported cases of novel influenza A (H1N1) infection and there were ongoing community level outbreaks of novel H1N1 in multiple parts of the world.

Don’t Getting Paranoid about Swine Flu
  • Please avoid getting paranoid and scared of swine flu.
  • Most cases reported in India have been relatively mild, with those affected starting to recover within a week with supportive treatment.
  • The swine flu infection is generally considered potentially contagious for up to 7 days following onset of illness.
  • Persons who continue to be ill longer than 7 days after illness onset should be considered potentially contagious until symptoms have resolved.
  • Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods.
Symptoms of swine fluAs swine flu spreads fast throughout the country, it is becoming increasingly important for all of us to know the symptoms of the disease so one can recognize it in themselves and others at an early stage. Just like with any sort of influenza, how bad and how long the symptoms last will depend on treatment and the patient's individual circumstances.

Although symptoms have generally proved mild, a small number of patients may develop more serious illness and require emergency hospitalization. It is seen that many of these people have other underlying health conditions, such as heart or lung disease, that put them at increased risk.

Typical symptoms:
  • A sudden onset of fever - 100 degrees F or above
  • A sudden bout of coughing
Other common symptoms may include any or all from the following:
  • Headache
  • Fatigue or Tiredness
  • Chills (shivering)
  • Cough and sneezing
  • Aching muscles and joints
  • Sore throat with or without runny nose
  • Diarrhoea or stomach upset
  • Loss of appetite
Also at risk are:
  • patients who have had drug treatment for asthma within the past three years,
  • pregnant women,
  • people aged 65 and older, and
  • young children under five.
It is vital that people in these higher-risk groups who catch swine flu get diagnosed and treated at the authorized testing and treatment centers in their vicinity as soon as possible.

Some Simple Precautions can Prevent Spread of Swine Flu
You can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza by following some simple hygiene habits
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or handkerchief when you cough or sneeze.
  • Do not dispose off your tissue. Always use a closed dustbin for the same.
  • Wash & sanitize your hands frequently.
  • Avoid touching your mouth and nose with your hands.
  • Do not spit on the ground or on walls.
  • Stay at home from work or school if you are sick.

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