Swine Flu: Symptoms and Prevention
How aware are you about “Swine Flu”?
The genetic researches of influenza virus have shown that pandemic H1N1 virus popularly known as “Swine Flu” is originated from animal influenza viruses. It is a contagious flu as it can be transmitted through droplets of sneezes or cough and through human contact of hands, eyes, nose or mouth of the contaminated person. The virus is similar to seasonal flu but seems to be irrelevant with seasonal influenza virus because antibodies used to cure seasonal influenza virus does not protect against the pandemic H1N1 virus. Person having weak immune system, children under 5 years old, 65 years or older people, pregnant women, patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetic patient are at higher risk to get infected. The symptoms of infection can be severe illness resulting in viral pneumonia, lung infection and shortness of breath.
What are its symptoms?
Sign and symptoms of pandemic influenza A are very much similar to seasonal flu, including runny nose, watery and red eyes, sore throat, cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, high fever, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and shortness of breath. One should get immediate medical attention if a person exceeds 100F fever for 3 days or more and has difficulty in breathing. An infected child experience rapid or labored breathing which should be taken as the major sign by parents to get their child tested. Majority of people with H1N1 influenza viruses experience only mild illness which recovers fully without medical treatment.
How to avoid it?
Vaccination is the best way to prevent or reduce the chances of becoming infected by the flu. There are two antiviral agents Zanamivir (Relenza) and Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) which is used as an oral medicine to prevent or treat influenza virus. Children over 6 months-2 years and adults aged 18+ are given annual injection while children from 2-18 years and pregnant women are given nasal spray for the prevention of the flu. Besides these vaccines, the infected person should get plenty of rest, drink plenty water and fluids, take over-the-counter pain relievers, cover mouth and nose while sneezing and coughing, wash their hands regularly with soap and water or sanitizer, maintain distance from uninfected person as much as possible and most importantly wear mask regularly. The uninfected person should also follow the same preventive measures mentioned for infected person to protect themselves from the Pandemic influenza virus and remain healthy.
Updates in context of Nepal!
The Section Chief for Epidemiology and Disaster Management Section of Department of Health Services for Nepal, Dr. Guna Nidhi Sharma stated that the outbreak of pandemic influenza A (H1N1) 2009 virus has taken more than 30 lives in Nepal since 2009. This year alone 381 patients are infected with Swine flu virus and the death toll has reached 10 from seven districts Pokhara, Jhapa, Syangja, Palpa, Rupandehi, Kathmandu and Lalitpur. This disease could be an epidemic threat if it keeps rising at the rate of 15 to 20% per day in present scenario of Nepal’s crowded population, specifically in the kathmandu valley. The National Public Health Laboratory has recorded that there is a rise in the number of swine flu cases and Epidemiology and Disease Control Division(EDCD) has announced free health services for seasonal flu and free ‘Tamiflu’ medicine for Swine flu infected person. EDCD is also creating awareness for the preventive measures through public service announcement (PSA) in national television and radio.