H1N1 Influenza

A 5-year-old boy came home from school with fever and chills. He complained of pain in the throat as well. On consulting the doctor it was confirmed that the boy was infected with swine flu or H1N1 influenza that was spreading in the city. The doctor prescribed medications for fever and pain. The mother was advised to give the boy lots of fluids and rest at home.

Cause of H1N1 influenza

H1NI influenza or swine flu first occurred in the spring of 2009 in the United States. It is caused by H1N1 virus which spreads quickly. It is also known as swine flu as it is known to get transmitted from pigs to humans.

The virus infects the cells in the lining of the throat, nose and lungs by inhaling contaminated droplets in air or by coming into contact with a surface contaminated by the virus.

The H1N1 virus has spread to all parts of the world since its first appearance affecting million of people worldwide due to which the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared swine flu as a global pandemic.

The symptoms of swine flu develop 3 days to 5 days after the person has been exposed to the H1N1 virus. The affected person has the following H1N1 symptoms:

  • Sore throat
  • Cough along with high fever and chills
  • Body ache
  • Head ache
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue

One must consult the doctor immediately, if one experiences these signs:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling of confusion

In children, the parents must look out for warning symptoms like,

  • Fever associated with rash
  • Extreme irritability
  • Symptoms of flu that keep appearing and disappearing
  • Inability to drink fluids
  • Difficulty in waking up from sleep

In case of swine flu during pregnancy or any underlying health condition like heart disease or emphysema, one needs to consult the doctor.

Seasonal flu is also caused by virus like swine flu but it appears during December, January and February unlike swine flu that appears in spring.

Seasonal flu infects people who are 65 years of age and above where as HINI flu occurs in people who are below 25 years of age.

For diagnosing swine flu, a respiratory mucus sample is collected from the patient within 4 to 5 days of illness. This is the time when the patient sheds the virus.

In children, however the shedding of virus continues for more than 10 days. This sample is sent to the laboratory for testing.

Treatment is not necessary for most of the H1N1 cases as they decrease on their own, but in case the patient has a chronic respiratory disease, medications are prescribed to clear lung secretions, open the airways and decrease swelling.

In case of fever and body aches, medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol), Ibuprofen(Advil,motrin) and Naproxen(Aleve) are taken. Anti viral drugs like zanamivir (Relenza) and Oseltamir (Tamiflu) are prescribed only for people that have high risk for complications to develop.

The high risk group includes:

  • Women who are pregnant
  • Children younger than 5 years of age
  • People 65 years and above age group
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • People who are hospitalized
  • People with underlying medical conditions like asthma, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, liver problem, blood disease, emphysema and neuromuscular disease, HIV infection
  • Patients younger than 19 years of age who are taking long term aspirin therapy

The H1N1 vaccination not only protects against swine flu but also against two strains of seasonal flu. The Centre of Disease Control And Prevention recommends the vaccination for high risk groups that include,

  • Pregnant women
  • People who live and take care of children who are below 6 months
  • People between the age groups of 6 months to 24 years of age
  • People with chronic health problems and immune diseases
  • People who work in hospitals and emergency services.

However, the H1N1 swine flu vaccine can be taken by anyone above 6 months of age for protection against the H1N1 virus. Some people have however experienced allergic reaction after taking the vaccination.

To prevent getting infected with the H1N1 virus, one must always wash hands with an antiseptic soap or a hand sanitizer before eating meals.

The flu virus is said to survive on door knobs and counter tops for nearly 2 hours. Washing of the hands is essential.

If a person has swine flu he or she should stay at home as the flu spreads to others easily.

While coughing or sneezing, the affected person should use a tissue to prevent contaminating surfaces with the infected droplets from the nose and mouth.

The affected person’s glasses and utensils have to be kept separately.

The discovery of the H1N1 virus is the combined effort by teams of scientists from the Centre Of Disease Control And Prevention (CDC), world health organization (WHO) and public health departments of various nations. The U.S President Barrack Obama had declared the outbreak of swine flu in 2009 as a National emergency on October 24th 2009.The 2009-2010 pandemic of swine flu caused 14, 286 confirmed deaths worldwide according to statistics.