In 2009, the world witnessed the outbreak of a novel virus, H1N1 flu virus that first originated in the USA and quickly spread to different parts of the world. It ultimately resulted in WHO declaring it as a pandemic. The novel virus contained a unique combination of influenza genes. The combination of the influenza virus remained unknown until the outbreak. Even after ten years, scientists are trying to understand the influenza virus better and take better precautions to avoid another pandemic. But, the common influenza virus does affect people and is in circulation from 1977. It is commonly known as swine flu as in the past people who had direct contact caught the virus. But, it changed when a new virus spread among people who never have any contact with pigs. Read ahead to know more about the virus that causes swine flu and how to prevent it.
About H1N1 Flu Virus
The virus causes infection also referred to as swine flu. The term swine flu normally refers to the flu in pigs. Influenza in pigs can become a problem when the virus gets transmitted to humans in close contact with infected pigs like veterinarians and hog farmers. The flu is passed to others through contaminated body fluids. While the typical flu virus becomes less active in winter months, the new pattern of H1N1 flu virus has a high level of activity in cooler as well as summer months. It affects people in the northern hemisphere too. The new virus has triggered a different pattern of illness and has resulted in death, which is uncommon in other influenza infections.
The infection, affecting younger and healthier people also resulted in death. It makes the H1N1 flu virus dangerous. People suffering from the infection can cause devastating results in people who face high risk. So, the underlying medical condition makes you susceptible to other complications.
H1N1 Flu Virus Pandemic
In 2009, the world became aware of the seriousness of the H1N1 flu virus when WHO declared it as a pandemic. In the spring of spring, scientists successfully recognized the new strain of the virus that has a combination of viruses from pigs, birds, as well as, humans. The new strain caused respiratory infection in humans. The condition usually referred to as swine flu became the cause of sickness for many people around the world. It also resulted in the death of several people, which prompted the WHO to declare it as a pandemic.
The first outbreak occurred in April 2009, which spread rapidly around the North American region and then to other parts of the world. By June, the viral infection spread to more than 74 countries as well as territories. The death of people, mostly occurred due to ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) or pneumonia. The viral infection recorded a steep decline by May 2010.
Symptoms Associated With H1N1 Flu Virus Infection
- Fever (Not in all cases)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body pain/aches
- Red or watery eyes
You develop these signs about one to three days after you get exposed to the virus.
When To See Doctor For H1N1 Flu Virus Infection
If you are normally healthy with no lifestyle or other underlying diseases, then your immune system can heal the infection. So, the symptoms you develop due to contracting the virus without any medical assistance. But, some people can develop severe complications like breathing problems or pneumonia (a serious lung infection). So, some people face a high risk of developing complications due to swine flu. People with the following condition need immediate medical assistance:
- Women who are pregnant
- Suffer from any chronic disease like heart condition or asthma
- People suffering from emphysema
- Diabetic patients
Apart from the above-mentioned people, you must also seek doctor’s assistance when you suffer from serious signs like:
Serious Signs In Children
- Difficulty breathing or fast breathing
- Skin color changes (gray or blue)
- Difficulty drinking fluids
- Persistent or severe vomiting
- Not interacting properly
- Difficulty walking
- Fever with rash
- Flu-like symptoms that heal and comes back with severe cough and fever
- Child feels irritable
Serious Symptoms In Adults
- Abdominal pain or pressure
- Chest pain or pressure
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in both sides of the abdomen
- Severe vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms that go away and come back with worse cough and fever
When you see such signs, see a doctor as soon as possible to prevent any complications.
Causes Of H1N1 Flu Virus Infection
H1N1 flu virus infects the cells that line your nose, throat, as well as, lungs. When you inhale the contaminated droplets, the virus enters your body. The virus, also transfers when you touch a contaminated surface and immediately touch your nose, eyes, or mouth. Some people also contract the virus when they come in close contact with pigs infected with the virus. It is not a common occurrence and when it occurs, it is known as zoonotic infection. But, you cannot catch the flu by eating pork. Animal to animal transmission occurs when infected pigs touch the nose of other pigs. It can also transfer through dried mucus.
Risk Factors Linked To H1N1 Flu Virus Infection
Some people are more at risk of contracting the virus compare to others. So, the following people can suffer from the problem:
- People who live or travel to an area with the outbreak of swine flu where more than one person suffered the infection. They are susceptible to exposure to the swine flu virus.
- Veterinarians and swine farmers who work with or near pigs infected by the disease have a high risk of virus exposure.
- People over 65 years of age.
- Small children under five years.
- People with underlying medical conditions like HIV, cancer or diabetes compromise their immunity.
- Take medications (like immunosuppressant) or undergo therapies (chemotherapy or radiation therapy) that compromises the immune system.
- Women who are pregnant.
- People suffering from a chronic lung disease like asthma.
- Children suffering from neurologic conditions
- People with chronic heart disease (for example, heart failure)
Complications Due To H1N1 Flu Virus
Swine flu, mostly causes complications to people who face high medical risk. So, elderly people, pregnant women, people who have a weak immune system or those who take medication for a long time for underlying medical conditions face more complications compared to others. Healthy people can overcome the infection without severe complications. People facing high risk can develop the following complication due to the infection:
Some people develop severe pneumonia or bronchitis due to H1N1 flu virus infection. It needs a heavy dose of medication to alleviate the problem. But, it becomes a life-threatening risk for people who are already weak due to existing medical conditions or due to old age. These conditions can even result in death.
Complication Of H1N1 Flu Virus During Pregnancy
Swine flu infection affecting pregnant women can suffer severe risks. The condition can affect the unborn baby can cause the following issues:
- Premature labor
- Low birth weight of the baby
Therefore, to avoid such complications pregnant women need to get their annual flu vaccination. Missing it can put them at risk of contracting viral infections.
Make Existing Health Conditions Worse
People who suffer from existing medical conditions requiring long-term medical supervision face more risk of complications due to swine flu. Their current health condition worsens due to the viral infection. So, people with issues with their lungs, like who suffer from chronic pulmonary disease or asthma can see their condition worsening. People with diabetes can see a hike in their high blood sugar levels, which results in diabetic ketoacidosis. Therefore, people suffering from type 1 diabetes or hyperglycemia need to maintain caution as swine flu can result in the blood sugar levels to go down drastically, leading to serious complications.
In some of the cases, people suffering from other underlying issues or immune problems can suffer from some of the rare, but dangerous side effects like:
The condition can at times result in inflammation of the brain.
The viral infection can lead to febrile seizures, especially in children who suffer from high temperatures.
Due to the H1Ni flu virus entering your bloodstream, it affects your brain as well as the spinal cord, leading to meningitis.
It is the infection of the ear. Due to the virus infection, it affects the middle parts of the ear.
The infection can result in inflammation of the sinus. The condition is known as sinusitis. You sinus are the air-filled, tiny cavities located behind the cheekbones as well as your forehead. The inflammation can lead to severe headaches.
Diagnosing H1N1 Flu Virus Infection
Since the flu symptoms can mimic other seasonal flu signs, your doctor needs to perform a thorough examination to diagnose the problem. The main methods to detect the problem in people are:
Your doctor can ask about the signs and symptoms you observe. You need to inform the doctor regarding the recent travel, your association with animals and any other activities you have indulged to make a proper diagnosis. In a normally healthy person, a specific test is not needed to detect the problem.
Tests For Diagnosing H1N1 Flu Virus
As suggested earlier, normally healthy people need no test to confirm the diagnosis. It is because the doctors follow a universal treatment plan, which does not change when you have flu. But, some people need to undergo a test. The people who need a test to detect the problem are:
- You are already admitted to the hospital for some other condition.
- People who suffer from the high risk of complication due to contracting the H1N1 flu virus.
- People who suffer from heart problems like heart muscle infection or heart failure.
- Problems with lungs or breathing issues like pneumonia or asthma.
- Patients suffering from the brain as well as nervous system problems (like encephalitis or encephalopathy).
- When a person suffers from organ failure or septic shock.
When a patient suffers from the above-mentioned issues, then doctors perform specific tests to detect the virus’s presence. The test used to detect the infection is:
Rapid Influenza Diagnostic Test
The most common test used to detect swine flu is the rapid influenza diagnostic test. Lab technicians check for antigen (substances) from the swab sample taken from the back of your throat or nose. The test offers quick results as it offers confirmation within fifteen minutes. But, at times, the tests can provide a false negative even when you have confirmed symptoms of the disease. So, your doctor proceeds with their initial diagnosis despite a negative result.
Treatment For H1N1 Flu Virus Infection
Remember, all types of flu, including swine flu, has only a supportive relief option. So, doctors only offer you symptoms relief due to the unavailability of any specific medication. These treatment options offer relief from the symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness. So, you can prevent the escalation of the disease and reduce the risk of serious complications. The options available are:
You can opt for over-the-counter pain and flu relief medications. You can also choose decongestants, cough suppressants, antihistamines or expectorants to deal with the symptoms. These medications only offer relief to otherwise healthy people. Take only the suggested dose. People with underlying health issues must never self-medicate.
When you consult a doctor, you get prescription medications to help with swine flu. These medications known as antiviral medication can fight different types of flu, including seasonal flu. So, your doctor can suggest the medication to alleviate the condition.
While it may feel difficult, giving time for the virus to run its course is the best remedy for any type of flu cases. Since the disease is triggered by a virus, you have no specific cure for the condition. But, serious conditions need immediate medical attention. Never overlook issues like shortness of breath. Another important thing to note is your responsibility towards others. If you suffer from a viral infection, then stay at home to avoid spreading it to others. The flu is contagious as early as a day before you see the symptoms. You can get relief from the infection within a week, but some cases last longer.
Lifestyle And Home Remedies To Manage H1N1 Flu Virus Infection
While you develop the flu infection, you need to take some measures at home to ease the symptoms and ensure better healing. Healthy people who contract the disease can follow the steps at home. Others need to take advice from their doctor. But, these symptoms offer you relief.
Increase Fluid Intake
The virus can cause dehydration. It can cause severe complications or escalate certain conditions. So, drink plenty of liquids to rehydrate. You can choose water, juice or warm soups to prevent dehydration.
Your body needs rest to ensure your immune system can fight infection. So, get more rest to offer relaxation to your body and enhance your healing.
Due to the flu, your nose becomes congested. To avoid breathing problems, run a humidifier to make breathing easier. A humidifier can ease the cough, sore throat, or congested nose. So, you can get relief.
Use Over-The-Counter Pain Relievers
Due to the viral infection, you can feel pain or body aches. So, to manage pain, you can take OTC pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. But, while using the medications, you need to maintain caution. It is important to maintain caution while giving aspirin to children or teenagers. So, always consult a doctor before giving the medication to children. It is because taking the medication can cause severe complications like Reye’s syndrome.
People taking OTC medication need to remember that the medication can only offer temporary relief. It does not alleviate your symptoms. It is also important to know the side effects associated with the medications. Some medications taken for a longer time or in higher than recommended doses can result in liver toxicity.
Preventing H1N1 Flu Virus
Can you prevent swine flu? It is possible to take effective steps to prevent the problem from affecting your life. You can take the following steps to avoid viral infection:
To prevent the H1N1 flu virus from infecting you, you need to take annual flu vaccination. Everyone who is six years or older needs to take the vaccination to protect themselves against the viral infection. The flu vaccine can protect you from viruses triggering swine flu as well as other viruses that are common during the flu season. You access the vaccine in the form of nasal spray or injection. In most of the cases, a nasal spray is approved for use in healthy people. So, people between the ages of 2 to 49 can use nasal spray.
But, the nasal spray is not ideal for certain groups of people like pregnant women, people with wheezing or asthma, children (between two and four years), and people with a weak immune system. In such cases, people need to talk to their doctor regarding vaccination.
Other Methods To Prevent H1N1Flu Virus Infection
To prevent the swine flu virus from infecting others, you need to take steps. These steps can prevent the virus from spreading to others:
Stay At Home
If you feel sick or observe symptoms of the condition, then you need to stay at home. It is to prevent the infection from spreading to others. Stay at home for at least 24 hours until your fever goes away.
Wash Your Hands
To prevent the virus from affecting your body after touching a contaminated surface, you need to wash your hands thoroughly. Frequent washing of your hands using soap and water removes the virus on your hands. If you have no soap and water available, then carry a hand sanitizer. Try to choose a product with 60% alcohol content to offer the desired results.
Contain Coughs And Sneezes
It is important to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. The droplets coming out from your nose or mouth while coughing or sneezing contains the virus. It can transmit to others. So, wear a face mask to prevent such issues. To avoid contaminating your hands when your cough or sneeze into it, use a tissue or inner crook of the elbow. If using a tissue, then discard it immediately.
Avoid Contact With Others
Stay away from crowds as much as possible. People who are at high risk of complications can contract swine flu with ease. So, people who are younger than five years or older than 65 years need to avoid contact with people who are suspected of viral infection. It also affects pregnant women and people suffering from chronic conditions like asthma. Avoid swine barns at seasonal fairs as well as other areas to avoid viral infection.
Safety Precautions While Handling Animals
Since the virus can spread from a diseased pig to humans, people who closely with the animal needs to maintain contact. So, swine farm owners, employees of the farm, and veterinarians need to follow some safety guidelines to avoid contracting the disease.
- Follow all the safety precautions while handling animals like using PPE (personal protective equipment).
- People who work closely with animals need to get relevant vaccination to prevent virus exposure.
- Contact a veterinarian when an animal appears sick.
- Avoid contact with pigs if they appear ill. Try to isolate infected pigs from others.
Health people affected by the H1N1 flu virus can get back to their life without facing any issues after the virus runs its course. During the infection period, you can take the necessary steps to get relief from the distress caused by the virus. But, people with the underlying medical condition need to get medical assistance to deal with the infection. It is because chronic medical condition can escalate the infection and cause fatal results. While the majority of the people recover from swine flu with ease and lead a normal life, others are not so lucky. So, people with serious medical issues must never ignore the problem and get the necessary medical assistance.View Article Sources