SWINE FLU-All you need to know about

What is swine flu ? Swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses (H1N1 subtype) that causes regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen Swine flu viruses have been reported to spread from person-to-person, but in the past, this transmission was limited and not sustained beyond three people Are you Suffering from Swine Flu: The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu.

In the past, severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with swine flu infection in people.

Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.

Signs and symptoms: The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu in humans and may include:

How does swine flu spread ?

Spread of this swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is thought to be happening in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

Minimising the risk of an epidemic

Culling: killing large numbers of infected and potentially infected animals.

Quarantine: putting infected farms in quarantine.

Vaccinating birds against the virus: Remains controversial and contentious. Indonesia launched poultry vaccination in July 2004 and Thailand is considering the same measure.

Latest normal flu vaccine: For people involved in culling operations to minimize the risk of being infected by both bird flu and human flu simultaneously.

How can someone with the flu infect someone else ?

Infected people may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 7 or more days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

What should I do to keep from getting the flu ?

First and most important: wash your hands. Try to stay in good general health. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food. Try not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

What can I do to protect myself from getting sick ?

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it

• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way

• Try to avoid close contact with sick people

Is it safe if i eat pork ?

Swine influenza viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.

What is the best way to keep from spreading the virus through coughing or sneezing ?

If you are sick, limit your contact with other people as much as possible. Do not go to work , stay at home or in your hotel room . Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Put your used tissue in the waste basket. Cover your cough or sneeze if you do not have a mask. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.

Is there a human vaccine to protect from swine influenza ?

There are no vaccines that contain the current swine influenza virus causing illness in humans. It is not known whether current human seasonal influenza vaccines can provide any protection. Influenza viruses change very quickly. It is important to develop a vaccine against the currently circulating virus strain for it to provide maximum protection to the vaccinated people. This is why WHO needs access to as many viruses as possible in order to select the most appropriate candidate vaccine virus.

What drugs are available for treatment ?

Antiviral drugs for seasonal influenza are available in some countries and effectively prevent and treat the illness. There are two classes of such medicines, 1) adamantanes (amantadine and remantadine), and 2) inhibitors of influenza neuraminidase (oseltamivir and zanamivir).

Dr. Sanjeev Sood is Prof. & Head of Panchakarma Department, Dayanand Ayurvedic College, Jalandhar, + 91 9814004142