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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A quick guide to the H1N1 virus and what you should do during the current epidemic

H1N1: Facts On The Flu


Swine flu is a respiratory disease caused by a new strain of the influenza virus type A. The strain is known as H1N1 and is the same as the one found in seasonal flu outbreaks, except that it contains genetic material found in birds, humans and pigs. It is now a wholly human virus 
How does it spread? 
Flu viruses are spread through droplets that fall from your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze. These particles can be inhaled or transferred to others via hard surfaces, such as door handles, phones, keyboards and remote controls 
How concerned should I be? 
In most cases, symptoms of the virus are relatively mild. The majority who have caught it have made a full recovery within a week, many without medical treatment and some without knowing they were infected Laboratory-confirmed cases of swine flu reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) show a mortality rate of 0.4%, in line with seasonal flu. In India, there were 1,078 positive cases till Tuesday and 11 deaths, resulting in a mortality rate of 1% As with all forms of flu, there is a chance of the virus mutating into a stronger strain, building a resistance to antiviral medicine and causing more severe symptoms. As yet there is no evidence to suggest this has happened 
Pregnant women People aged 65 and over Under-5s And people with: Chronic lung disease Chronic kidney disease Chronic heart disease Neurological diseases (including motor neuron disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's) Lowered immune systems Diabetes A history of being treated for asthma in the past three years People in the above groups should seek 
immediate medical attention if they display symptoms of the flu 
    Among certain groups, primarily those with underlying health problems, there is an increased risk of complications. Where complications do occur, they tend to be when the virus has entered the lungs and further infections, such as pneumonia, occur 
If I am pregnant? 
Pregnant women have a lower immune system, especially In the third trimester (weeks 27-40). If you are pregnant and experience symptoms, immediately contact a medical professional who can prescribe you antiviral medication 

Preventing the spread of germs is the most effective way of fighting the virus. Observing basic hygiene practices will not only reduce your risk of catching flu, but also the risk of passing it to others 

If you trash it, you can kill it Being prepared 
You could establish a circle of friends who could help you if you fall ill Stock up on paracetamol-based cold remedies Keep a thermometer handy 
The symptoms of the illness are broadly the same as normal flu, but they can be more severe and cause complications that are more serious 
Do you have? 
A fever (temperature of 38 C or 100.4 F or above) And two or more of the following symptoms? 
If so, you should seek medical advice immediately 
Stay at home You can call the toll-free helpline 108 You can also visit the website http://mohfw.nic.in and see the swine-flu section 
The established protocol is 
Visit your GP If s/he thinks you are an H1N1 suspect, he will send you to the nearest public/private hospital of your choice for a screening If the hospital thinks you have H1N1, they will take a throat swab sample If a sample is taken, Tamiflu will be immediately administered Serious cases could be quarantined immediately In case you are H1N1-positive, then hospital or home quarantine will follow Those who have been in contact with you will also be tested
Most people will respond well to 
    plenty of rest and paracetamolbased remedies. These should 
    help reduce body temperature 
    and alleviate symptoms 
The WHO has recommended only Tamiflu as the drug for treatment. Tamiflu is being dispensed to anyone with symptoms suggestive of swine flu. It is not a cure, but may shorten the duration of illness, reduce the risk of complications such as pneumonia, and make you less contagious if taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Antivirals are new medicines that don't kill viruses, but keep them from multiplying. Flu viruses are known to die within a week 
These have no effect on the virus that is responsible for swine flu but may be prescribed if you develop a secondary bacterial infection, like severe tonsillitis or a chest infection 
Globally, two vaccines are in the pipeline and are in the final stages of testing. They should 
be ready toward the end of 2009, but bulk orders have already been placed by the United States and Europe. Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has promised an indigenous vaccine by January 2010 SOME FAQS 
What should I do if I am in contact with someone who has swine flu? 
Carry on as normal, unless you have symptoms. If you develop symptoms within 7 days of the contact, see a doctor 
Should I go to work if I live with someone with swine flu? 
Yes, but if you develop symptoms go see a doctor 
After swine flu, when should I go back to work or school? 
Kasturba Hospital keeps adults for 5 days after they first develop symptoms. Children are usually told to wait for 7 to 10 days after the symptoms begin. Usually, a person should wait for 7 to 10 days to recover. You should stay away from work or school until the majority of your symptoms have subsided 
Can I get swine flu twice? 
Once you have had a virus, your body develops an immunity to it, so unless there is a significant mutation of swine flu you should not get it again 
When will this pandemic end? 
It is impossible to predict, but from past experiences the pandemic is likely to continue for 6 to 12 months, after which the virus will circulate as any seasonal flu unless it mutates


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