What is Swine Flu ?
Swine Flu is a respiratory infection caused by a type of Influenza Virus called H1N1.
How does Swine Flu spread ?
Swine Flu spreads when you are exposed to the cough or sneeze of a person infected with Swine Flu or you transfer droplets from a contaminated surface to your eyes, nose or mouth.Swine Flu symptoms develop about 1 to 3 days after you’re exposed to the virus and continue for about 7 days.People with Swine Flu can be contagious one day before they have any symptoms, and as many as 7 days after they get sick. Children can be contagious for as long as 10 days.
What are the symptoms of Swine Flu ?
Most symptoms of Swine Flu are the same as the common seasonal flu. They are:
Cough, Cold, Sneezing, Chills, Headache, Fatigue, Lack of Appetite, Body Aches, Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Sore throat, Fever (Temp > 38 C or 100.4 F), Lethargy, Difficulty Breathing.However, people with Swine Flu are likely to have more nausea, vomiting than those with the regular seasonal flu. Also, in Swine Flu, the onset of symptoms like Fever can be sudden and rapidly progressive while in Seasonal Flu, the symptoms are usually gradual.
Who is at risk for severe Swine Flu ?
Swine Flu is not dangerous to everyone. Fortunately, in most people, the swine flu causes symptoms for a few days and passes away like the regular seasonal flu. The swine flu causes major problems mostly only in the following high-risk category of patients:
- Children under 5 years old
- Adults over 65 years old
- Children and teens who are getting long-term Aspirin therapy, and who might be at risk for Reye’s syndrome after being infected with Swine Flu
- Pregnant Women
- Adults and children who have chronic lung, heart, liver, blood, nervous system, neuromuscular or metabolic problems
- Adults and children who have suppressed immune systems
- People in nursing home or other long-term care facilities
How is Swine Flu treated ?
Swine Flu can be treated with Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or Zanavir (Relenza). These antiviral medications can help to shorten the duration of illness. They work best when taken within 48 hours of the first flu symptoms.
How do you avoid catching Swine Flu ?
- Wash your hands throughout the day with soap and water. Sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice to make sure you’ve washed long enough. Or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth
- Avoid people who are sick
- Avoid visiting crowded & closed places like malls, movie theaters, markets etc
Is there a vaccine against Swine Flu ?
Yes, the Seasonal Flu Vaccine can give you protection against Swine Flu. The Flu Vaccine is available both as an injection as well as a painless, intra-nasal spray.
The above information was written for Medsense School Health Stations by:
Dr. Madhu Purushothaman, MBBS, American Board of Pediatrics, FAAP (USA)
Senior Consultant in Pediatrics – SRM Institutes for Medical Science (SIMS)
Vadapalani, Chennai 600026