Swine flu (swine influenza) is a respiratory infection in pigs caused by influenza viruses that causes a regular outbreak in pigs. As per the report of the “World Health Organization (WHO)“, swine flu was first discovered in humans in the year 2009 and became a pandemic disease (contagious disease is spread over a wide geographical area affecting a large number of the population).

In August 2010, swine flu was declared a pandemic disease in human. Since then, the swine flu virus is known as a regular human flu virus. Like other strains of influenza, It continues to spread during flu season. 

What is Swine Flu?

Swine flu is a viral infection caused by an influenza virus that affects mainly pigs. It usually does not infect humans, but infection to human can do happen. It is a contagious virus, that can spread from one person to other. Symptoms of swine flu are very much similar to that of common flu.

The infection H1N1 get the name swine flu because the virus that causes infection initially crossed to humans from the pigs in which it evolved. The H1N1 virus is a mix of genes from swine, bird, and human flu viruses.

What causes Swine Flu?

Swine Flu cause

Swine flu is caused by influenza virus, which is categorized into three broad types such as influenza A, B, and C, among these most common type to cause swine flu is type A. This virus contains the glycoproteins haemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N), for this reason, they are also described as H1N1, H1N2 H1N3 etc. The designation “H1N1” indicate unique features, which exhibits characteristics that identify the virus to the immune system and allow for attachment and replication of the virus.

How does Swine Flu spread?

Swine Flu spread

Contact with infected pigs: Swine flu viruses do not usually infect humans, but sporadic human infections with swine flu have occurred. Contact with infected pigs is the most common way of catching swine flu, for example, workers in the swine industry.

Contact with infected humans: The disease is spread through saliva and mucus particles of an infected person by sneezing, coughing, touching a surface covered by germs and touching their eyes or nose.

In cases where infection spreads from human to human, by close contact with the infected person, and it nearly always occurred in closed groups of people. The person who has an infection can spread it one day before they have any symptoms and as long as seven days after they get sick. Kids can be infectious for as long as ten days.

What are the symptoms of Swine Flu?

Swine Flu symptoms

The common symptoms of swine flu (H1N1) are very much similar to those of seasonal flu may include:

    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Coughing
    • A sore throat
    • Runny or stuffy nose
    • Body aches
    • Fatigue
    • Loss of appetite
    • Diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting are caused occasionally in swine flu, but more commonly seen with other strains of influenza.

What are the warning signs of Swine Flu is adults/children?

Swine Flu warning sign

In adults:

    • Difficulty breathing
    • Chest pain or pressure
    • Abdominal pain or pressure
    • Dizziness
    • Confusion
    • Severe vomiting
    • Symptoms like flu get better but then come back with a fever and severe cough

In children:

    • Fast breathing or difficulty breathing
    • Bluish or grey skin colour
    • Not drinking enough fluids
    • Severe or persistent vomiting
    • Not waking up or not interacting
    • Irritability so high that your child does not want to be held
    • Rash with a fever
    • Symptoms like flu get better but then come back with a fever and severe cough

If you notice any of the above symptoms, get emergency medical assistance right away.

What are the complications related to Swine Flu?

Swine Flu complication

Most of the people who get swine flu recover within one to two weeks after initial symptoms, but some people may develop certain complications like pneumonia, bronchitis, ear infection, confusion, seizures and respiratory failure. These complications are likely to develop in people with chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, emphysema, or heart disease, pregnant women, children who are five years and below, and people who are 65 years and above.

What is the diagnosis of Swine Flu?

Swine Flu diagnosis

Diagnosis of swine flu is made through a combination of lab testing and clinical diagnosis by your doctor. However, most of the symptoms of seasonal flu are overlapping with swine flu. Therefore lab testing is the must for conforming swine flu.

If your doctor examines you and suspects that you might have H1N1, your doctor will go for the rapid flu test. This test is done by a nasal or throat swab ( taken from inside of your nose and around the back of your throat) that provides quick results in his clinic within 20 minutes. The test, confirm whether you have flu (influenza) or do not have the flu (influenza).

H1N1 is a type of influenza A, but rapid flu tests cannot determine which type it is. To determine which type of influenza strain infected you, the world health organisation (WHO) recommends molecular diagnosis (real-time multiplex PCR for influenza A and B virus or Gene expert for influenza A and B virus).

What is the treatment of Swine Flu?

Swine Flu treatment

Initially to treat seasonal flu and also H1N1 flu, require symptomatic relief. In case of chronic respiratory disease, your doctor may prescribe additional antiviral medications to help relieve your symptoms.

The antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) are prescribed within the first 24 or 48 hours of symptoms to reduce the severity of your symptoms, and possibly the risk of complications.

Flu viruses can develop resistance to antiviral drugs. Therefore, antivirals are reserved for people who are at high risk of complications such as:

    • Doctors and healthcare workers
    • Children below five years of age, particularly children younger than two years
    • Older adults 65 years and above
    • Pregnant women
    • People below 19 years of age and are receiving long-term treatment of aspirin, because of an increased risk of developing Reye’s syndrome
    • Obese people having a body mass index above 40
    • Some people who are having certain chronic medical conditions, like asthma, emphysema, heart disease, diabetes, neuromuscular disease, or kidney, liver or   blood disease
    • People with compromised immune systems (AIDS)

Over-the-counter medication like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help to relieve aches, pains, and fever. Do not give aspirin to children under age 18 because of the risk of developing “Reye’s syndrome” (a rare but possibly fatal condition in children).

Along with medication, you can also manage swine flu symptoms by taking rest which will help your immune system to fight the infection and drink plenty of water and other liquids to prevent dehydration.

How to prevent Swine Flu?

Swine Flu prevention

One of the best methods to prevent swine flu is to get flu vaccination either as a shot or as a nasal spray yearly. Every year flu shots developed by the “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)” includes vaccination against a type of H1N1 virus. Vaccination prepares your immune system to attack the real virus when enters your body.

Other easy ways to prevent swine flu are:

    • Clean your hands frequently with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective
    • Use tissue paper to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of tissue paper after use
    • Better to avoid close contact with a flu-infected person
    • If you get sick with influenza, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them
    • Farmers should wear masks and gloves when dealing with infected animals to prevent swine flu
    • Avoiding large gatherings during swine flu breakout

Most common questions asked about Swine Flu (H1N1 Flu Virus) / Q&A’s?

Can people get Swine Flu from eating pork?

No. Swine Flu (H1N1 virus) is not transmitted by eating pork or pork products. Consuming properly handled and cooked pork and pork products are considered safe. Cooking meat to an internal temperature of 160°F kills all kind of viruses and other food-borne pathogens.

How long is someone with Swine Flu infectious to others?

People with Swine Flu (H1N1 virus) infection should be recognised as highly contagious from one day before the onset of symptoms till they are symptomatic, and up to 7 days following the onset of symptoms. Children, especially younger children, might be contagious for more extended periods.

Is the Swine Flu (H1N1 virus) in pigs same as the Swine Flu (H1N1 virus) in human?

No, H1N1 swine flu viruses found in pigs are antigenically very different to that of H1N1 swine flu viruses found in human. It is very rare to see cases of swine flu spread through direct contact from pigs as the H1N1 virus found in human is a mix of genes from swine, bird and human flu viruses.

Is there any cure for Swine Flu?

Although anti-virals like oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) are being used for the treatment of swine flu, they do not provide a cure against swine flu. However, they help reduce the duration of illness, relieve from symptoms, reduce the risk of serious complications like pneumonia.

Can antibiotics help treat Swine Flu?

No, antibiotics are not used for the treatment of swine flu as it is a viral infection and not the bacterial infection. However, antibiotics are used for the treatment of some severe complications of swine flu that may develop such as pneumonia.

If you have any questions regarding Swine Flu, feel free to drop a comment below. We will be happy to answer.


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