India witnessed its first outbreak of swine flu disease in 2009 in Hyderabad. After the outbreak of the H1N1 virus in the United States and Mexico, the Government of India started screening people to diagnose the virus. 2009 saw the first outbreak of swine flu disease in India. Around 58,285 people were infected by swine flu disease and 3815 deaths recorded in India between 2009 and 2013.
Swine flu is classified as a global pandemic with approximately 90,000 people being affected worldwide in 2009. Swine flu still continues to be a major health issue in India and worldwide with new cases emerging every year. The solution to any health problem is a proper and timely diagnosis. It is the same with the swine flu checkup as well.
Swine Flu Checkup
Usually, swine flu causes mild illness and the symptoms are similar to common flu. A proper swine flu checkup can be made on the basis of clinical presentation as well as laboratory tests. CDC [Centres for Disease Prevention and Control] guidelines for the diagnosis of swine flu are:
- Acute fever and airway infection within 7 days of close contact with a person who has had H1N1 infection
- Acute fever and airway infection within 7 days of travelling to a place with H1N1 confirmed cases
- Acute fever and airway infection in a person who is a resident of a community where there is a prevalence of swine flu and has at least one confirmed case of H1N1 flu
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Other clinical swine flu symptoms are taken into account and laboratory tests are conducted in order to confirm the diagnosis. Various tests for swine flu are:
- Blood tests- Routine blood tests are done in order to rule out any bacterial infection. WBC and lymphocyte count decreases in some cases. Electrolyte imbalance occurs in some cases.
- Nose or throat swab- The specimen of the infected tissue from the throat or nose is collected during the first 5 days which is the most infectious period. Tests can reveal the result within fifteen minutes.
- Chest X-ray– X-rays and other imaging techniques are used for checking lung complications like pneumonia.
- CDC kit to diagnose flu which uses PCR technology.
- Rapid influenza diagnostic tests.
Swine Flu Treatment
The swine flu treatment is mostly supportive and includes fluid replacement, plenty of rest and medication to treat the symptoms. It includes pain relievers and IV fluids. Antiviral medicines are also used. The medicines used include:
- Cough suppressants
Severe cases require IV hydration and other supportive medication. Patients who develop a fever and sore throat should be isolated for 7 days and to avoid close contact and spread of the infection to other people. A doctor should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment. Cases with complications like difficulty in breathing should be treated immediately.
Patients should be encouraged to wear a face mask while going out in order to prevent the spread of infection. The patient should cover his mouth while sneezing or coughing. Proper hygiene should be maintained at home in order to avoid infecting other family members. Antiviral drugs are used to reduce the severity of the symptoms and prevent complications. Development of drug resistance to these drugs is also seen in some cases. So, these drugs used only for patients with a high risk of complications which includes:
- People receiving long term treatment in hospitals
- Pregnant women
- Young children below five years of age
- People over sixty-five years of age
- People receiving aspirin treatment for a long period of time. It may lead to the development of Reye’s syndrome
- Obese people with high BMI
- People with chronic medical conditions
- People with a weak immune system or people receiving immunosuppressive treatment
- HIV positive patients
H1N1 spreads through droplet infection or by contact with the contaminated objects. The H1N1 vaccine is used to prevent the spread of infection by the H1N1 influenza virus. The vaccines are of two types:
- The nasal spray form which contains live virus
- The injectable form contains killed virus.
A small dose of medicine administered which helps the immune system to develop immunity against the disease. The vaccine is used for prevention and not for the treatment of active infection. The protection provided by the vaccine differs in every person depending on the immune response of the individual
The best way to prevent swine flu is to get the vaccination on a yearly basis. Other measures which can be taken for preventing the spread of the disease are:
- Proper and strict isolation of the infected patients
- Preventive measures should be used by people coming in constant contact with pigs and people living in high-risk areas
- Vaccination before travelling to high-risk areas
- Proper washing of hands
- Covering the mouth while sneezing or coughing
- Use of face masks in public places
- Proper vaccination and awareness programs by the government