Swine Flu and Flu Facts
The Flu season is back. Should you be worried? Don’t panic!
You will find more information about “Swine flu” caused by the H1N1 virus as well as seasonal flu on this page here. Do reach out to us at +91 4317 1000 (Mon- Sat, 10 AM to 8 PM) if you need more information on Flu vaccination.
What is Flu?
Influenza, or “Flu” as it is commonly referred to, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. The infection can manifest as just a mild illness or have very severe symptoms, at times resulting in death. Most people with flu recover completely in about 1 to 2 weeks. However, some people are at higher risk of developing complications from the disease and these can be life-threatening in certain cases.
What are the symptoms seen with Flu?
Symptoms of flu are very similar to those seen with common cold. However, flu is much worse than common cold and people afflicted with flu have some or all of these symptoms:
- Fever* with or without chills
- Sore throat or dry cough
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Headache, body aches and fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea (more common in children)
*Please note – Not everyone with flu will necessarily have a fever.
What is the difference between Seasonal Flu and “H1N1 Swine Flu”?
Flu is caused by a virus called the Influenza virus. There are two main types of influenza (flu) virus – Types A and B. The influenza A and B viruses that routinely spread in people (human influenza viruses) are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year.
Similar to human influenza viruses, subtypes of Influenza virus Type A are also seen in pigs (swine) and these cause regular bouts of respiratory disease in pigs called swine influenza or swine flu. However, the subtypes of Influenza virus Type A seen in pigs (H1N1, H1N2 and H3N2) are very different from the ones that affect humans. Very rarely, these subtypes can cause disease in humans, when they are called variant Influenza viruses in humans (H1N1v, H1N2v, H3N2v).
In April 2009, a new variant of H1N1 virus subtype suddenly emerged in Mexico and the US. Initially thought to be a variant from pigs (hence called Swine Flu), it was later found to have a combination of swine, human and avian (bird) genes. This virus created a pandemic across the world and was named the 2009 H1NI virus, with the illness referred to as Swine Flu. Although having less mortality rate than other seasonal flu viruses, the 2009 H1N1 swine flu spreads faster and hence always presents a high pandemic risk.
Both seasonal flu as well as swine flu can cause serious complications in certain high risk individuals.
How does Flu spread?
The flu virus is spread mainly through droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. Others get infected when these droplets land in their mouth, nose and eyes or in some cases when they get inhaled into the lungs. People standing as far away as 6 feet can be affected this way.
A less common mode of spread is when a person touches an object or a surface that has the flu virus on it, and then touches their own mouth, nose or eye with the same hand. Affected persons can infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after they become sick, although children can transmit the virus even beyond 7 days.
Who are at higher risk of getting complications from Flu?
Most people with flu have mild illness and will recover in less than 2 weeks. However, some people are at a higher risk of developing complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections, leading to hospitalization and occasionally resulting in death. The following list includes groups of people more likely to develop flu-related complication:
- Children less than 5 years old
- Pregnant women
- Persons aged 65 years or older
- Patients with lung diseases, heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, blood disorders, diabetes, neurological disorders, cancer and HIV/AIDS
- Patients on long term cortisone (steroid) therapy
How can you protect yourself from getting the Flu and/or prevent spread of the infection?
Include these simple measures in your daily routine to protect yourself and other from getting the flu:
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water is not available
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to prevent the spread of germs
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick with cold and cough. If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick
- Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious
If you belong to the high-risk group, get yourself vaccinated against both seasonal flu as well as H1N1 swine flu.
When should you consult a doctor?
If you have any or all the symptoms mentioned previously for flu, you should consult a doctor immediately to get yourself assessed for risk of complications. You should also consult a doctor to find out if flu vaccination is recommended based on your risk-profile.
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