August 13, 2009

Swine Flu: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

I live in Pune, the epicentre of Swine Flu. These are depressing times because really who would have thought that people would die of flu in this century. The good part, however is that people are getting cured, developing immunity and moving on. This post is just to list the info I came across in newspapers and news sources about swine flu.

What is it?
A respiratory disease of pigs and causes regular outbreaks in pigs.
It has been known to spread from person to person but in the past, this transmission was limited and never sustained beyond 3 people.

The present Swine Flu virus is contagious and is spreading rapidly from one human to another by means of air.

Diagnosis of Swine Flu
A respiratory specimen needs to be collected within the first 4-5 days of illness. Throat swabs were being collected in Maharashtra for the same, however since the past 2 days, testing has been stopped in Pune, and now across Maharashtra. Suspected cases are straightaway being given medicines.

How does Swine Flu Spread?
Just the same as seasonal flu - through air. It spreads from one person to another through coughing and sneezing(thus it is important to wear masks/ use hankies if u have swine flu to cough or sneeze into). Some people may touch infected objects or people and get the virus. (The virus stays alive on non-living objects for upto 8 hours.)

How can someone with Swine Flu infect Others?
Infected persons may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and upto 7 or more days after becoming sick.

Vaccine for Swine Flu
At present there is no vaccine for swine flu and it may take about 6 months to a year to develop one.

Medicines for Treating Swine Flu
There are medicines for treating Swine Flu - Oseltamivir (TamiFlu) and Zanamivir (Relenza).
Antiviral drugs are prescription medications that fight against the flu by preventing the flu virus from reproducing in the patient's body. The medicines work best if started within 2 days of getting the symptoms.

Surfaces that are likely Sources of Swine Flu Contamination
The virus can spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with the virus and then touches his/her eyes, nose or mouth.

Droplets from cough of sneeze in the air may fall on surfaces like desks, doorknobs, children's toys, phone handsets etc. While it is almost impossible to avoid such things, its a good idea to wash hands frequently to avoid getting infected.

Preventive Precautions
  • Frequent hand washing.
  • Covering your nose and mouth with tissue while coughing and sneezing - throw the tissues in trash after use. If you don't have a tissue, use your hand and then wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol based cleaner.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick with the flu then stay home from work/school and limit contact with others to prevent infecting them.
What to do if you get the flu?
If you develop symptoms like a running nose, cough, sore throat, fever, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea, then its best to contact a doctor. Stay at home as much as possible so that you don't spread the disease to others.

Can people get Swine Flu from Eating Pork?
No, Swine Flu doesn't spread through pork or pork products. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160F/72C kills the swine flu virus as it does other viruses and bacteria.

Household Cleaning, Waste Disposal and Laundry
  • Throw away tissues, used masks in the trash and wash your hands after touching such waste.
  • Keep surfaces like bedside tables, bathroom slabs, children toys, phone handsets, and doorknobs clean by wiping them with a household disinfectant (like Colin).
  • Linens, eating utensils and dishes belonging to the patient should be thoroughly cleaned.
  • Clean the laundry in hot water, avoid hugging it prior to washing to prevent contaminating yourself. Clean your hands with soap or alcohol based hand rub right after handling dirty laundry.
  • Eating utensils should be thoroughly cleaned with soap and water.
Swine flu is curable and there really is no need to panic. One just needs to spruce up one's hygiene to avoid contracting the flu.

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