Swine Flu or A(H1N1): Everything you need to know

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Symptoms in children
* Fast breathing
* Breathlessness
* Wheezing
* Blue skin or lips
* Not drinking enough fluids
* Irritable Excessive vomiting
* Seizures

Symptoms in adults
* Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath
* Chest pain
* Dizziness
* Confusion
* Excessive vomiting
* Convulsions

Prevention
* Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
* Avoid contact with those are ill
* Avoid shaking hands, kissing and hugging when greeting
* Avoid crowded places
* Cover your nose and mouth while coughing or sneezing
* Use a cotton handkerchief or tissue
* Dispose used tissues properly
* Wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based rub
* Keep surfaces clean by wiping with a disinfectant
* Ensure your regular work place is clean
* Proper ventilation in your room
* Remain indoors if you are ill. If you have flu-like symptoms, consult a doctor

Misconceptions
* Swine flu infects those who come in contact with a pig
* You can get swine flu if you eat pork Swine flu is transmitted through food
* You shouldn’t travel because of the outbreak
* If you have flu-like symptoms, it is A(H1N1)
* Swine flu is brand new
* Swine flu is unusually deadly or unusually contagious
* You can get the A(H1N1) virus through drinking water

As the A(H1N1) flu scare grips the city, people are lining up in hospitals to be screened for this influenza virus. You could have the common cold, high fever or breathlessness, here’s what you need to know about the A(H1N1) flu.

The A(H1N1) influenza virus is a ‘reassortment’ virus. It is also referred to as swine flu because laboratory tests showed that it has genes similar to that found in viruses in pigs. It was later found that it also has genes of viruses found in birds and humans.

Hence, a reassortment.

How do we end up ‘catching’ this virus?

This flu spreads just like the seasonal flu, from person-to-person through coughing or sneezing by people with influenza. The droplet of a cough or sneeze of an infected person are propelled through the air and deposited on the mouth or nose of people nearby. Sometimes people may get infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their nose or mouth. For example, door knobs.

Emergency warning signs

This flu also starts off like any other seasonal flu. You will have cold, cough and fever. It is recommended that you get a test done when your condition worsens with headaches, breathlessness, body aches, vomiting and diahorrea. These are the emergency warning signs. This will usually last for about five to seven days.

If you have severe illness, you can get a nasal or throat swab sample collected. This specimen will have to be collected within the first four to five days of illness. This will then be tested for the H1N1 virus.

Treatment

There is no vaccine to protect against this flu. Consult a medical practitioner when you have flu-like symptoms.

If you have a cold, cough or fever, remain indoors. Do not go to school or work if you are ill. Make sure there is enough ventilation in the room.

If found positive, you should be quarantined in a hospital and will be administered the Tamiflu drug. This drug will make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. It is administered twice a day for about five days.

For children, Tamiflu is available in the form of syrup. During your recovery, it is important to get plenty of rest and drink lots of water.

Who should wear the N-95 mask?

It is recommended that you wear an N-95 mask only if you have the A(H1N1) flu. Those not infected do not have to wear a mask. It is sufficient to use a cotton handkerchief to cover your nose and mouth.

Doctors and paramedical staff treating swine flu patients should wear the N-95 mask. If the mask gets wet, dispose it properly.

Categorisation of A(H1N1) cases

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare recently issued guidelines on the categorization of A(H1N1) cases.

swine flu, FAQ

Pic courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.

Category A – Patients with mild fever/sore throat/cold, will be treated only for these symptoms.They will not be tested for swine flu or administered the Tamiflu drug. But their condition should be monitored and checked after 48 hours by a doctor. Patients should confine themselves at home.

Category B – In addition to the symptoms in Category A, individuals who fall in one of the following categories shall be given Tamiflu: those below five years of age and those above 65 years of age, pregnant women, those with chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, lung, liver, brain or kidney diseases, sickle cell anaemia, cancer or HIV. Testing is not required for this group

Category C – Apart from symptoms of Category A and B, those who have the following will be tested for the A(H1N1) flu: breathlessness, chest pain, drowsiness, bluish discolouration of nails, fall in blood pressure and so on. These patients will have to be tested, hospitalised and treated immediately..

Measures to avoid contracting the virus

Doctors say that personal hygiene is very important. Wash your hands thoroughly using soap or an alcohol-based rub. After touching door knobs for example, wash your hands.

Avoid getting in contact with anyone who has the A(H1N1) flu.

Drink plenty of fluids. Avoid going to crowded places.
 
References


About Vaishnavi Vittal 139 Articles
Vaishnavi Vittal is a Bangalore-based journalist.

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