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HealthLiving

Advisory: What Should You Know About Swine Flu

By Dr Kirti Sabnis, Infectious Disease Specialist, Fortis Hospital Kalyan & Mulund

India has been reporting a surge in swine flu cases in  last two months. Swine flu, which is also known as H1N1 flu, is primarily caused by the H1N1 strain of the influenza (flu) virus. As it is a flu strain the symptoms of swine flu are similar to those of seasonal flu. Swine flu was first contracted from pigs to humans, in Mexico in 2009 and then it spread in all the countries.

Causes
Swine flu is  a contagious respiratory viral disease. It can spread through contact with contaminated surface, air, droplets due to sneezing etc. After one gets infected, it takes the patient two days to a week to show symptoms. Also, one cannot contract the disease by consuming bacon.

Symptoms

As it is a flu strain, the symptoms are similar to the regular flu like – cold, cough, fever, headache, sore throat, body ache, vomiting, fatigue, shortness of breath etc. While most patients show mild to moderate symptoms, in some serious cases one can suffer from lung infection, respiratory collapse and even death.

Prevention

As the disease is contagious, one needs to make sure to maintain adequate hygiene. Hands should be washed regularly by using soap and if not available then use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Cover mouth and nose with a handkerchief or tissue while coughing and sneezing and later also wash your hands. Do not touch the eyes, nose, mouth or even the face after touching any surface. Make sure to keep your houses clean by disinfecting the surfaces. Do not go in crowded places and if possible, wear a mask.

For few strains, vaccines are available which should be definitely taken by individuals who have low immunity or on chemotherapy medications.

Treatment

Medications are given to treat the mild symptoms and patients are advised to consume enough water. In some cases, antiviral drugs are prescribed to make sure the symptoms do not become severe. One can be suggested to use nasal spray. Hospitalization will be needed for serious patients who have infected the lungs or have breathing problems.

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