Swine flu is a respiratory infection caused by a type of Influenza virus (H1N1). This infection can range from asymptomatic infection to mild viral flu to severe, complicated diseases requiring hospitalization. Children, pregnant females and elderly patients have been found to develop complications at a higher rate.
Transmission– It is mainly spread from one person to another through respiratory droplets. Also, it can be transmitted from the patient to a healthy person by direct contact, touch or touching the infected surroundings of the patient.
Clinical signs and symptoms– Fever, cough, sore throat, headache, bodyache, joint pains, severe weakness, vomiting and diarrhea are the major symptoms. Some patients may develop complications like respiratory distress, decrease in oxygen saturation, drowsiness and altered sensorium, kidney and liver dysfunction etc. These patients need hospitalization and may need Oxygen or ventilatory support.
Diagnosis– H1N1 virus infection can be diagnosed by a test called RT-PCR, which is processed from the nasopharygeal swab of the patient.
Treatment- A medicine called Oseltamivir is available for treatment, which works best if started early, especially within 48 hours of onset of illness. Rest of the treatment is supportive.
Prevention– Swine flu can be prevented by taking vaccine, though the efficacy is not 100%. It is a safe vaccine, it should be taken every year.
Dr Surabhi Madan
FID (Fellowship Infectious Diseases, PD Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai)
Certified in Tropical Medicine & Antimicrobial Stewardship
Infectious Diseases Consultant, CIMS Hospital, Ahmedabad.