Swine flu or swine influenza is a respiratory disease of the pigs and is caused by Pestivirus of the family Flaviviridae. This classical swine flu is also known as Hog Cholera or Pig plague. In pigs the swine flu symptoms include fever, sneezing, coughing, reduced apatite, and nasal secretions which usually lasts for10 – 15 days in pigs that survived. The “swine flu” was so named since it is a respiratory disease and often spreads through the polluted atmosphere in the same way as in human flu. According to United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), swine flu does not normally infect humans. But people who are in close contact with pigs like pork processors and farmers have developed the swine flu infection. The swine were first found to be infected with influenza like illness during the human influenza pandemic that occurred during 1918-1919. But swine influenza was not the reason for this pandemic.
The swine flu out break in human was first reported in 1979 among the soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey in the United States. During this out break 200 positive cases were reported out of which one died. The current out break was first reported in April 2009 at Mexico. It is not caused by the swine flu virus but from its derivative i.e., Influenza a Virus subtype H1N1. This new strain has the ability to pass from human to human and often causes severe infection as it is not recognized by body’s immune system and so not generally stopped by the drugs used for the treatment of human variant of flu. The swine flu has caused the death of around 17,000 patients’ world wide by the start of 2010 and death rate is still increasing.
The spread of H1N1 infection occurs usually through the following ways:
The most common symptoms of H1N1 infection include the following:
If the following symptoms are observed, it indicates that the patient needs emergency medical treatment
As in the case of most other diseases, its better to take care not to get infected with H1N1 virus than going for treatment Keep the following points in mind to prevent the infection:
The symptoms of swine flu usually varies from persons to person, thus the treatment is given based on the symptoms and their severity. Anti viral drugs used for the treatment of HiN1 infection is of two major types, they are oseltamavir ( Tamiflu ) and zanamivir ( Relenza ). These drugs act by preventing the virus from reproducing. Both Tamiflu and Relenza is of same type but Relenza is available in inhaler form and Tamiflu in pill form. Apart from the use of antiviral drugs, the patients are treated symptomatically with specific drugs against specific symptoms like Paracetamol to reduce fever, anti-emetics for vomiting, pain relievers against body aches and pains and so on. The H1N1 patient may some times suffer from secondary bacterial infections like pneumonia; in such cases suitable antibiotics are given.
Vaccines against swine flu attack is not compulsory and are meant especially for those at high risk like pregnant women, immune compromised patients like AIDS or cancer patients, elderly people above the age of 65, children between the age of 6 months and five years , health care personals and so on. It was on October 21, 2009 the swine flu vaccination began. Vaccination helps in giving protection against H1N1 infection. Commercially two different brands of vaccines are available against swine flu they are Pandemrix and Celvapan. Pandemrix is usually given as a single dose of 0.5ml or as two doses of 0.25 ml which is given three weeks apart. Celvapan is given for children above 10 years and adult and usually given as two doses of 0.5ml three weeks apart.
In normal healthy individual there are no chances of getting infected by the swine flu virus for the second time. But chances are there for immune compromised patients from getting infected with this virus more than once.
Since WHO has declared the H1N1 viral infection as a pandemic in June 2009 lets try our level best in reducing the spread of swine flu viral infection and the resulting mortality through public awareness and hygienic practices.