Swine flu is a viral disease caused by H1N1 virus, a type of influenza virus. The disease is known to affect individuals ranging from 3 months to 81 years. The modes of transmission of H1N1 viruses occur mainly through the droplets expelled when an infected person coughs. If a person comes in contact with these droplets through air or touch a surface like door handles or table where the droplets land, swine flu can be transmitted. Most patients with swine influenza infection can spread the virus from 1 day before the onset of symptoms & through 5 to 7 days after the onset of symptoms or until symptoms resolve. Kids can be contagious for as long as 10 days.
The symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, breathlessness and fatigue. According to the data available the most common symptoms were fever (94%), cough (92%), and sore throat (66%). In addition, 25% of patients had diarrhoea and 25% had vomiting. Patients who are at highest risk for severe complications of swine flu infection are infants, pregnant women, old people, weak immune system, patients with medical or surgical illness & people on long term medications.
Investigation should be done within 48 hrs of getting symptoms. The most commonly used test for diagnosis is called a rapid influenza diagnostic test, which looks for substances (antigens) on a swab sample taken from the nose or throat. A diagnosis of confirmed swine flu requires tests like PCR & Nucleotide Sequencing.
Presently government of India recommends tamiflue as a drug of choice which is available at all government health bodies. Other classes of antiviral medications are also available for treating children & infants.
Preventive measures like coughing or sneezing with mouth & nose covered, washing hands regularly with soap & water, dinking plenty of fluids, avoiding crowded places, self medication,and reuse of tissues should be followed. N95 mass are available in the market to prevent disease transmission. Vaxiflu-S is the vaccine available in India for prevention of swine flu which is mainly for those above the age of 18 yrs. Nasovac is another intra nasal vaccine available which can be used for adults and children above three years.
Dr. Sumit Dubey Incharge –International Inoculation Centre, NDMC & Registrar (B&D)