With 6,500 identified infected in India; around 700 dead in under a week – the H1N1 endemic has suddenly found an anchor in India. Swine Flu – All About It :
I. What is Swine Flu?
Swine flu, hog-flu or pig-flu is a type A Influenza virus also called H1N1 which infects Pigs primarily. It’s contagious and when carried into a human being causes Human flu which is often fatal. It attacks the respiratory tract and hence is respiratory disease. In 2009, WHO declared Swine Flu a pandemic when it spread like wild-fire around the world. It was declared a disease for the first time during the first world war when Pigs and Humans fell sick at the same times.
II. What causes Swine Flu?
The Influenza-A virus whose subtype is H1N1 is the primary cause of Swine flu in Human beings. The other subtypes are H1N2, H1N3, H3N1, H3N2 and H2N3 and can also be reasons for Swine Flu.
The recent Swine Flu cases in Maharashtra were attributed to the large diurnal-nocturnal temperature spread which effects the immunity against the virus. Day time temperature reach 34 degrees and the night time temperatures go as low as 10 degrees which is a 23 degree difference.
III. How does Swine Flu spread?
Sneeze – Swine flu infects human beings and dwells in the mucus and saliva of the host. The virus is airborne and a simple sneeze from an infected person can propel millions of virus in the air. These are then inhaled by other people turning them into new hosts.
Touch – The virus can linger on to anything an infected human being touches. For example, door knobs, hand showers, faucets, TV remote controls etc are favorite spots for effective contagious transmission from person to person.
IV. Why is it dangerous?
Swine flu is highly contagious once it infects Human beings. The Human to Human transmission occurs at a significantly high frequency owing to the population and lifestyles.
The virus has very high virility and is constantly evolving into various strains over time. As a result of this, it becomes difficult for a human body to build immunity against the virus.
In severe cases, isolation and ventilator support maybe needed. Strong infections have been known to be fatal in human beings.
V. How does Swine Flu actually kill you?
The fatality rate of Swine Flu is reportedly 10% between the age groups of 20-45 years. The virus after being inhaled enters the respiratory tract of the person and finds its way to the lungs where it attaches itself to the air-blood exchange system. It begins to multiply at a significant speed hereon until it renders the pulmonary system severely damaged by drowning the lungs in body fluids. This displaces the oxygen in the lungs and hence the blood-oxygen supply to the brain is either impeded or is stopped completely. The eventual cause of death is asphyxiation. Other times, the lack of blood supply to the brain induces coma and sustained state eventually causes death.
Currently, the complications include Viral Pneumonia and secondary diseases like Diabetes and obesity complicate the manifestation further. Viral Pneumonia is 50% cause of fatalities in Swine flu cases.
VI. Symptoms of Swine Flu
Cough, fever and sore throat are primary symptoms of nearly all types of flu. Stuffy nose, bodyaches, headaches are common with Flu symptoms. As the infection increases, chills, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea become more common along with the aches. Loss of appetite creates weakness, specially after urination. Fevers generally hover around the 101.5 to 102 degrees mark, however in extreme cases, the fever can touch 104.5 degrees.
The symtoms of regular flu and Swine flu are very similar which makes the detection of H1N1 induced flu relatively difficult. Nausea and vomiting are more likely to be the larger symptoms in a person infected by H1N1 than regular flu.
Vaccinations are available in the market that can be administered intravenously, injected or via a nasal spray. Currently, injectable H1N1 vaccines available in the market are – Influvac, Agrippal, Vaxigrip, Vaxiflu-S and Fluarix.
The best thing to do however is to receive regular flu-shots annually. The shots are available at hospitals and clinics for around Rs. 500 – Rs 700 per dose.
VIII. Preventive Measures
1. Do not assume wearing face mask will ensure safety. It is simply a precautionary measure.
2. Do not assume regular flu shots will keep you safe from Swine flu.
3. Avoid touching your nose mouth and eyes while down with flu.
4. Wash hands every hour, or after every physical interaction with public utility objects like mentioned in the ‘how does swine flu spread’ section. The action of soap removes oil and dirt to which the flu virus tethers thereby significantly reducing the number of virus entering the respiratory system.
5. Stay at least 6 feet away from any person showing visual flu-like symptoms.
6. Never use your hands to block cough or sneeze. It’s very important to use a tissue or a kerchief or even the arm, but avoid hands.
7. Alcohol based hand sanitizer should be kept handy at all times to be used immediately after a sneeze or cough.
8. Stay indoors until the temperatures have consistently been below 100 degrees for more than 24 hours.
Current scenario in India
States of Rajasthan is where it all suddenly began. The death toll as of today is 165. Gujarat is the next worst hit state with 144 deaths followed by MP and Maharashtra with 76 and 58 respectively. 12 and 8 fresh casualties were reported from Rajasthan and MP-Gujarat respectively on February 15th alone.