Swine flu, technically known as the H1N1 Swine Influenza A, was first reported in Mexico but has now spread throughout the world. The swine flu virus is a variation of the seasonal influenza virus that we have all grown accustomed to. The influenza virus is a highly specialized virus that attacks the respiratory mucosa (and other areas). The virus has to infect cells in the respiratory tract so that it can replicate within these cells. Once the cell has accumulated enough viruses, it dies, liberating a host of new viruses into the body. This causes the features of influenza.
The disease is spread by way of droplet infection (i.e. coughing, sneezing, kissing etc.). The virus can live on inanimate surfaces (eg: ceramic or aluminum) and touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your nose or mouth is a sure fire way of becoming infected.
Like most cases of influenza, the disease is characterized by fever, weakness, coughs, headaches and a sore throat. These are usually more severe than the classic seasonal influenza. Eventually, one can start feeling signs of muscle and joint pain. What makes this virus dangerous, however, is its potent ability to affect the gastrointestinal system, causing vomiting and diarrhea.
If anyone should feel these symptoms, one should seek medical attention and advice. It is critical to avoid panic. However, medical care is critical in patients who are older than 65 and younger than 6 yrs. Moreover, patients who are asthmatic, suffer from diabetes, chronic renal failure and chronic heart disease should also seek medical attention quickly, to avoid complications. In such patients, untreated disease causes bronchopneumonia, sinusitis and ear infections too, and, if untreated, death.
So what can we do to prevent spread of the condition? Firstly, avoiding contact with ill individuals is critical (maintaining 1 – 2 meter perimeter around such patients is warranted). If you suspect anyone is developing signs of disease, encourage them to visit a general practitioner. If you think that you are suffering from the disease, seek medical attention quickly. Avoid going to work to prevent spreading the contagion. Cover your mouth with a tissue during coughing or sneezing and dispose of the tissue immediately. Engage in active hand washing regimens to maintain hand hygiene.
Moreover, people areencouraged to take the H1N1 influenza vaccine. This vaccine offers adequate protection against the virus by allowing to body to mount adequate defeces should it become infected. The injection is known to cause some pain at the site of injection but what’s a little pain compared to protection against such a nasty virus?