Every one of us wants to know what exactly swine flu is. Swine flue or swine influenza refers to an influenza caused due to swine influenza virus that usually infects pigs. However, the latest variant has infected humans as well. Awareness about the virus may be helpful, to detect if you have caught the virus as well as to dispel any panic reactions.
Swine flu explained
Flu virus normally affects humans, birds and animals once in a while. However, the virus has the ability to change form and jump from birds to humans or animals to humans and vice versa. The latest strain is transmitted from humans to humans. However, the name comes from its genetic structure that is closely similar to the swine flu virusthat affects pigs. The initial reports on study of virus suggested reassortment of at least four strains of influenza ‘A’ virus subtype H1N1. The subtype includes one strain endemic in humans, two endemic in swine and one endemic in birds, thus the name “Swine Flu”. Further analysis however suggested that is was a reassortment of two strains of SIV. Though initial reports identified it as swine influenza, a zoonosis, the origin is unknown. Previous swine flu cases were mainly reported mainly among those who came in direct contact with pigs. The new one is a virulent new strain of the virus. The cause of concern is that it has infected people who have no contact with pigs at all. There is a dispute as to the incubation period for swine flu and is estimated to be in the range of 1 to 5 days.
Swine flu symptoms
It is pretty difficult to differentiate swine flu symptoms from those of seasonal flu. The common symptoms include, cough, sore throat, fever, headache, body aches, fatigue and chills. In the recent outbreak of 2009 affected people are found to be dealing with diarrhea and vomiting also. These are symptoms similar to seasonal flu. Doctors may thus recommend a lab test to find if its swine flu or any other condition. Fatal outcome due to severe illness or complications like pneumonia and respiratory failure are likely but not common.
What care can we take?
To avoid spreading the virus to others, those affected should preferably stay home and avoid social gatherings. While sneezing or coughing use a tissue to cover the mouth and nose, as the droplets are an easy source for transmission from person to person. Tissue must be thrown into dust bin and hands should be washed clean. If you know of anyone infected then ensure that you do not use the items used by the person. Even if you touch anything make sure you do not touch your face and nose as they are easy targets for transmission.
Tamiflu and Relenza have been effective drugs on most cases. The symptoms can be seen in about 2 to 3 days. These drugs are more effective when taken within 48 hours of the start of flu symptoms.
It is important to keep yourself informed about the happenings and developments in your community. The local health department provides necessary medication and advice on preventive measures that would enable us to contain the spread of Swine Flu.