H1N1 is an Influenza A virus responsible for swine flu. The term “swine flu” typically refers to influenza in pigs. But after the outbreak of H1N1 in 2009, WHO declared swine flu as a pandemic. Since then H1N1 is seen as a normal human flu virus. H1N1 flu is now considered to be seasonal and just like most of the regular flu it is also very contagious. The H1N1 virus has a combination of flu genes from birds, swine, humans and infects the human respiratory system.
Earlier, swine flu caused by the H1N1 virus was thought to spread from only to pigs. But the H1N1 virus can get combined with other viruses and create new viruses. H1N1 is spread into humans directly through pigs or from an infected person. People who are infected can start spreading it 1 day before they start showing symptoms to as many as 7 days after they get sick. In children, this can be up to 10 days.
When those infected with H1N1 cough or sneeze, they spray tiny drops of the virus into the air which further spread to other people who come in contact with them. Touching unsterilized spaces like doorknobs, counter or public spaces these germ-affected areas and then touching your eyes or nose can expose you to the virus.
However, eating bacon, ham or pork can never cause swine flu.
The symptoms start to develop about 1-3 days after the virus enters your body. Swine flu has similar symptoms of regular flu and that includes:
- Body ache
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea/ Vomiting
As swine flu exhibits similar symptoms to regular flu, it is hard to confirm swine flu just with the symptoms. But swine flu can give you an intense stomach ache and vomiting compared to the regular flu. A rapid flu lab test might be able to differentiate the swine flu with regular flu. However, this test can also fail at times.
Doctors take a swab from your nose or throat to get the fluid for a test. The swab is then tested for the presence of the H1N1 virus for confirming the virus.
Some people have high chances of catching swine flu than others. They are:
- Pregnant women
- Children under the age of 5 and adults over the age of 65
- Teenagers undergoing aspirin therapy
- Adults and children with chronic diseases
- People with a weak immune system
- Already hospitalized patients and their caretakers
- People working in hospitals.
Antibiotics will not work with swine flu as H1N1 is a virus and not a bacteria. Some antiviral drugs prescribed by doctors can bring down the swine flu. They can make you feel better within 48 hours of intake. Swine flu can be treated in the same way as the regular flu until diagnosed.
You can also treat swine flu at home by taking plenty of water, getting a good amount of sleep, washing hands regularly with soap, taking medications, eating a balanced diet and staying away from virus affected surfaces.
The most important thing for not getting infected with the virus is to wash your hands regularly with soap. Also, try to avoid direct contact with the virus-infected person. Try to stay away from schools/colleges and public gatherings during the season of swine flu.
If you are an infected person, try to cover your nose while sneezing. Also, restrain yourself from large crowds.
Vaccine, in the form of both injection and nasal spray, is available against swine flu. Swine flu and H1N1 viruses, in most cases, are fatal provided you get the right medical aid. Risks of catching the swine flu can be brought down just with the precautions. So take the precautions seriously and stay away from the flu.