Swine flu, believed to have originated in Mexico, has now spread across the world. It is a respiratory disease caused by a strain of influenza, type A virus known as H1N1 (also H1N1 2009 type). The strain that originated in pigs (hence, the disease bears the name swine flu) has now come to affect humans. In its latest adaptation, the H1N1 strain that causes seasonal outbreaks of flu in humans contains genetic material typically found in the strains of the virus that affect humans, birds, and swine.
Swine flu symptoms are similar to those produced by the seasonal flu and are characterized by a sudden fever (100.4 F or above), sudden cough, sore throat, body ache, chills, upset stomach, loss of appetite, aching muscles, limb, or joint pain. Some people affected with swine flu have even reported nausea and diarrhea. These symptoms can, however, be caused by many other conditions too.
In children, this flu can cause neurological symptoms. Though these cases are rare, they can be severe, and even fatal. The symptoms include seizures or changes in mental status like confusion and sudden cognitive or behavioral changes. Swine flu in a person can be confirmed only through lab tests done at state health departments.
Pregnant women, young children, people with asthma, chronic lung conditions, cardiovascular conditions (except high blood pressure), liver and kidney problems, blood disorders, and residents of a nursing home or other chronic-care facility run a high risk of aggravating conditions if infected with swine flu. It may result in unfortunate and tragic outcomes.
One can contract the H1N1 swine flu virus directly from the air where an infected person has coughed or sneezed. The virus can also be picked up by touching an object infected through the touch or the cough of an infected person and then touching one’s eyes, mouth, or nose. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the infected people can spread flu germs up to a day before symptoms begin to appear, and for up to seven days after getting sick.
The mortality rate and incidence of swine flu deaths is not as high as other pandemics. Swine flu antiviral drugs, such as Tamiflu and Relenza, are administered to reduce the length of the illness and eliminate chances of any serious complications. These drugs are most effective when taken within 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms. Peramivir, yet another antiviral drug approved by the FDA's Emergency Use Authorization, is administered intravenously to hospitalized patients with severe flu. However, not everyone needs to be treated with these drugs. Usually, patients believed to be infected with H1N1 swine flu virus recover fully without antiviral treatment.
The CDC recommends that every six month old should get a 2010-2011 flu vaccine for the upcoming season.
People infected with this virus should not panic. Fortunately, the mortality rate of this virus is considerably low.
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