After creating a havoc of sorts not long ago, the dreaded swine flu is back. Though the entire medical community of the country has upped its guard against this deadly virus, it still seems to be spreading out and quick. “We have observed a 4 times surge of samples in the last one week. Fever with shortness of breath is a typical symptom. A positivity of 58% is observed," says Dr Nilesh Shah, Group President, Scientific Services and Operations, Metropolis Healthcare Ltd.
Swine flu is a respiratory infection. The virus that causes this flu, infects the cells lining the nose, throat and lungs. It can enter the human body through contaminated droplets in the air or via transfer of live virus from contaminated surface into the eyes, nose or mouth.
Swine flu is a respiratory infection. The virus that causes this flu, infects the cells lining the nose, throat and lungs.
Symptoms of the flu
Swine flu often goes undiagnosed because its symptoms are very similar to that of the common flu. “Common cold, regular flu and swine flu, all present the exact same symptoms. Swine flu symptoms usually start manifesting two to three days after the patient has been exposed to the virus. The infection usually lasts for 7 days, and if spotted and treated at the right time, it can cured to a large extent,” says Dr Sona Nenwani, General Physician.
The symptoms can manifest in any combination of the following factors:
- Nasopharynx: Common cold, sore throat and runny nose
- Respiratory: Cough
- Systemic: Fever with chills
- Psychological: Lack of appetite
- Gastric: Nausea or vomiting
- Intestinal: Diarrhoea
- Others: Joint and muscle ache
Swine flu testing
A person with symptoms like continuous fever accompanied by dry cough, chest discomfort and fatigue must see a doctor immediately. If the doctor advises a test, he must go to an authorised centre for testing within 24 hours.
The specimen of the infected material from the patient's throat or nose is collected within the first 4 to 5 days of illness. This is the most infectious period of the disease. The infected person is most likely to be shedding the virus. In a recent Government Epidemiology cell meeting, it was concluded that testing should be done on clinician request only for indicated cases as per Government approved criteria, states Metropolis Healthcare Ltd.
Complications caused by the flu
If not treated effectively and immediately, swine flu can prove fatal. Though it might appear to be a regular influenza, one must be extremely cautious as the H1N1 virus can inflict considerable damage to people suffering from it:
- It can worsen chronic conditions such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes or emphysema.
- It can cause neurological complications that range from confusion to seizure.
- It can cause pneumonia.
- It can shut down the respiratory system.
80 per cent of infections spread through contact, so washing hands regularly and effectively will solve half the problem. Here are some people who need to be extra careful:
- Pregnant women and children below 5 are very susceptible to this infection.
- Teens who have been using aspirin for a long time should be very careful as swine flu can increase the risk of the deadly Reye’s syndrome.
- Patients with lung, heart, liver, nervous, emphysema, neuromuscular or metabolic problems are more prone to this infection.
Treating the flu
According to CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) and WHO (World Health Organisation), antiviral drugs Tamiflu (Oseltamivir) and Relenza (Zanamivir) can be effective in slowing down the virus. These drugs work by blocking the newly-generated viruses from leaving the infected cell. This, in turn, slows the growth and replication of the virus, eventually lessening the severity of the symptoms. Also, these drugs reduce the transmission of this virus to others. Reports by the WHO state that Tamiflu can be administered orally, and Relenza through oral inhalation. However, an important point to note here is that these drugs ‘do not’ kill the virus or cure the illness. They only manage to impede the ability of the virus to spread.
Even as medical experts world over are doing their bit to defeat swine flu, a few measures at home can go a long way in preventing the disease. Go to a doctor if you have a cold, cough and fever. Do not rely on over-the-counter medicines. Early detection is the best way to tackle swine flu and prevent it from spreading.