Over 300 people have tested positive for the Swine Flu (H1N1) virus from around the country in the last 3 months.The H1N1/09 virus is a variation of the swine flu virus which doesn’t spread from swine. The virus is extremely contagious. The virus enters the body through the respiratory tract. The tips for prevention include those that prevent contact with the virus, those that prevent its spread from the respiratory tract to blood.
Preventing contact with the virus:
- It can spread through coughing and sneezing so always cover your face while doing so. And make sure people around you in office or home also follow this.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth too often
- Maintain a high level of personal hygiene. Always wash your hands before or after eating and particularly after returning from a public place.
- Sometimes virus can spread through droplets that have remained on surfaces of things like laptops, phones so avoid using someone else’s items.
- Avoid public places, unhygienic conditions, etc.
- If your city/area is swine-flu endemic, always wear a standard swine flu mask in public places (the H-95 mask which is worn by nurses and doctors while collecting samples from swine flu victims). Normal surgical masks which sell like hot cakes during swine flu season might not give enough protection.
- If you feel sick and look like you are developing a cold or fever, stay at home and take enough rest. Rest has also been shown to increase ‘interferons’ which help our immunity to fight the virus better. Keeping away from others also prevents spread of the infection.
Preventing the virus from spreading from the upper respiratory tract:
- Gargling with warm water in which a little salt is added, several times a day acts like an irrigant for the virus and washes it off.
- Drinking lots of warm water and other warm fluids wash off the virus into the stomach where they cannot survive.
Currently, injectable H1N1 vaccines are available in the market – Influvac, Agrippal, Vaxigrip, Vaxiflu-S and Fluarix. There is an intranasal vaccine called Nasovac, produced by Pune’s Serum Institute last year but it is not in production now. The injectable forms cost around Rs.600-700 per dose. The doctors advise people to get a repeat vaccine dose every year.
Swine flu is diagnosed by identifying the particular antigens associated with the virus type. In general, this test is done in a specialized laboratory and is not done by many doctors’ offices or hospital laboratories. However, doctors’ offices are able to send specimens to specialized laboratories if necessary.
Prevention is always better than cure. However, if one is infected, there are certain antiviral drugs which help. Zanamivir (Relenza) and Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) have been successful in treating patients with Swine flu. One should take these only with a doctor’s prescription since indiscriminate use could lead to resistance to the virus.
The patient will need to hospitalized, isolated and put on a ventilator in severe cases.