Maharashtra has been witnessing a spike in Swine flu cases of late. According to the data from the state health department, nearly 3,000 cases of H1N1 flu and 147 deaths have been reported till the end of August — the highest surge in Swine flu cases in the last three years, in the state.
First detected in the US in April 2009, the virus was a hybrid of swine, avian and human strains. Medically, this disease is referred to as Influenza A or H1N1 flu. It spread through the world within six months and has been infecting people since then.
Dr Maharshi Desai, Head, General Medicine Department, Apollo Hospitals, Ahmedabad says, “it is not easy to differentiate between a normal seasonal flu and H1N1 and they can look similar to the common cold.” However, One way to differentiate between the two would be the temperature of the fever(>38 * C). Severe exhaustion, weakness, bodyache and headache are more common is Swine flu while sneezing, sore throat and stuffy nose is more common in common cold.
People who suspect that they are infected with Swine flu should quarantine themselves indoors and avoid coming in contact with people as the virus spreads the same way that seasonal flu (cold) spreads — via air. Flu viruses are spread mainly by aerosols that infected people produce when they cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby and are then inhaled into the lungs, creating a transmission chain of the virus.
Dr Sunil Jain, head of department, Medical Emergency Services, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai advises people to quarantine as it can stop the spread of the virus. He says, “We suggest quarantining for five to seven days. After that, the virus is mostly dead.”
There is no specific treatment for Swine flu and it is not required either unless in case of extremely severe conditions. In most cases, your doctor can tell if you have the flu by your history and symptoms. Dr Anita Mathew, Infectious Disease Specialist, Fortis Hospital, Mumbai says, “This virus can sometimes prove to be fatal for specific populations like the elderly, asthmatics or those who are immunocompromised.”
A H1N1 vaccine already exists and is the most effective way to reduce the chance of getting infected. Dr Maharshi Desai, head, General Medicine Department, Apollo Hospitals, Ahmedabad says, “People who get this vaccine have a lower chance of illness and death compared to people who are not vaccinated. Because the influenza virus mutates slightly from year to year, you need a new vaccine dose every year, before each flu season.” Children, elderly, patients with lung problems, chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease, people infected with HIV infection and pregnant women will benefit the most from getting the booster dose.
Jain adds, “There are a few cases where people have reported of side effects, but like the Covid-19 vaccines, taking this vaccine is needed, as it will limit the spread and the severity of the infection, if you get affected.”
Swine flu symptoms to keep an eye out for:
Nausea and vomiting
Shortness of breath
Recommended foods to eat:
Vitamin C rich foods: lemon, oranges, kiwis, spinach, broccoli
Vitamin D rich foods: fatty fish, egg yolks, cheese, red meat
Leafy green vegetables
Foods high in protein