Swine Flu (H1N1 flu) – Its Diagnosis and Treatment

“Swine flu” or “H1N1 flu” is comparatively a new strain of influenza virus affecting humans. This infection originated in pigs, but the spread in humans is primarily by person-to-person transmission. The swine flu virus is a type of influenza A virus. Swine flu made headlines in 2009 when it was isolated for the first time in humans and became a pandemic, affecting almost 74 countries and territories.

Swine Flu Diagnosis

Common symptoms of swine flu include fever, body ache, fatigue, cold, cough, headache, diarrhea, and vomiting. Confirming the diagnosis becomes difficult based on symptoms as they are similar to that of any other flu. Majority of the cases of swine flu are self-limiting and do not require intervention. However, in individuals that belong to the high-risk group, timely diagnosing and treatment are essential to prevent complications. Pregnant females, individuals >5 years of age or <65 years of age, anyone suffering from any chronic conditions like renal or kidney disorders, or immunocompromised patients belong to the high-risk group.

Most commonly used diagnostic test is the rapid flu test. It consists of taking a nasal or back of the throat swab. This test can provide a result within 20 minutes. This test will suggest whether you suffer from the flu or not. Rapid flu test analyzes the virus involved in the infection and reveals if you are suffering from influenza A or B. However, this test does not suggest subtype/strain of influenza A virus. Therefore, you cannot determine if the individual is suffering from H1N1 or any other strain.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have formulated certain analytical tests like real-time PCR, nucleotide sequencing, and phylogenetic analyses. These tests can analyze the subtype/strain of influenza virus that is responsible for the infection.

Swine Flu Treatment

As most of the cases of swine flu are self-limiting, only symptomatic treatment is required. However, certain cases of swine flu result in severe disease or complications like pneumonia. The risk of complications is greater in high-risk individuals and immediate treatment is essential.

Two groups of antiviral medications are approved by the FDA, which are neuraminidase inhibitors (oseltamivir and zanamivir) and adamantanes (rimantadine and amantadine). The first group of medication prevents the release of the progeny virus from the host cell. This prevents the spread of the virus to the respiratory tract. As the peak duration of viral multiplication in the respiratory tract is between 24–72 hours, neuraminidase inhibitors should be administered as early as possible after initiation of symptoms. This group of medication is widely used as side-effects are rare, and it doesn’t cause drug-resistant variants. Neuraminidase inhibitors are effective against all strains of influenza virus.

Adamantanes, on the another hand, is effective only against influenza A virus. They prevent replication of the virus during its initial phase. This group of drugs is not widely used as it is common to see drug- resistant variants.

Prevention and Home Remedies for Swine Flu

Along with treatment, certain precautionary measures are essential, and they are as mentioned below:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
  • Individuals who take care of infected people should wear gloves, gown, and a face mask
  • Affected individuals should be treated in a single-patient room and shouldn’t travel in public
    transport or go out in public.
  • Use an alcohol-based disinfectant to clean all the objects of infected individuals like utensils and
    clothes.

Swine flu, primarily affecting pigs, was recently seen to infect humans. Symptoms of swine flu are similar to any other flu and are self-limiting. However, treatment is important in high-risk individuals to prevent secondary complications.

Summary

H1N1 virus, or swine flu virus, is a subtype of influenza A virus commonly affecting swine. It usually causes acute respiratory infection in swine and was not seen to affect humans. However, The H1N1 strain of influenza A virus was isolated in 2009 in humans for the first time. It has become pandemic, affecting almost 74 countries and territories.

Individuals who are in close contact with pigs are at a higher risk of getting this disease. It is highly contagious and easily spreads amongst people through infected droplets. Swine flu diagnosis cannot be confirmed through symptoms as they are similar to any other flu. Some common symptoms include fever, body ache, fatigue, cold, cough, headache, diarrhea, and vomiting.

The rapid flu test is most commonly used to diagnose swine flu. However, a negative result does not rule out your possibility of H1N1 infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have formulated tests that are more accurate and can analyze the type of virus involved.

Swine flu treatment in most of the cases is symptomatic. High-risk individuals, like pregnant females, individuals >5 years of age or < 65 years of age, anyone suffering from any chronic conditions like renal or kidney disorders, are recommended to take antiviral treatment to prevent the development of serious complications. Two groups of antiviral medications are approved by the FDA – neuraminidase inhibitors (oseltamivir and zanamivir) and adamantanes (rimantadine and amantadine). Neuraminidase inhibitors are commonly used as chances of drug variant strain is rare while on this medicine when compared to adamantanes.

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