Swine flu is a respiratory disease, caused by a strain of the influenza virus known as H1N1.
Although, H1N1 is the same strain that causes seasonal outbreaks of flu in humans, the latest type is different as it is a mutated version containing genetic material that is generally found in strains of the virus that affect humans, birds and swine (pigs).
What has happened this time is that the flu viruses from humans and pigs have swapped genetic components with each other, and evolved into a completely new variety – Hence the absence of any concrete treatment plan for it.
Although the strain may have originated in pigs, it is now a wholly human disease and is being transmitted person-to-person.
The first symptoms of swine flu are fever (greater than 100°F or 37.8°C), sore throat, body ache and fatigue. Some patients have also complained about running nose, diarrhoea and vomiting.
Persons who have travelled overseas recently should be extra cautious and seek medical help immediately if they have these symptoms.
But these symptoms alone would not suggest that a person is infected by Swine Flu, as it can be confirmed only after testing a respiratory specimen, that’s taken from the suspected case within the first four to five days.
So it is important to seek medical help if one feels that he/she has flu.
As the flu is now spreading by people-to-people to contact, the infection primarily spreads when a person comes in close contact with an infected person. The simple way to minimise the risk is by covering the mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing and wearing a mask while going close to the infected person.
Maintaining high level of hygiene is also important and one should always wash hands frequently with soap and water.
Since influenza spreads through both air and contact with contaminated surfaces, surface sanitizing may help prevent some infections. For that alcohol is an effective sanitizer, bleach can also be used to sanitize rooms or equipment that have been occupied by patients with influenza symptoms.
People with the flu are advised to get plenty of rest, drink plenty of liquids, avoid using alcohol and tobacco and, if necessary, take medications such as paracetamol (acetaminophen) to relieve the fever and muscle aches associated with the flu.
However, the best way would be to get in touch with your doctor, who can help you get the right treatment.
Preventive medications are not advisable as it may lead to the development of resistance to the only known effective drug Tamiflu – the government of India has adequate stock of the drug.
If any person has all or any of the above mentioned symptoms he/she should not panic and get themselves tested in any of the government hospitals.
10 home remedies to avoid swine flu
Are the rising swine flu casualties giving you jitters? Not sure how you can avoid falling prey to the growing epidemic? First and foremost, there is absolutely no need to panic.
Watching television to keep tabs on the progress of H1N1, particularly in the badly affected areas like Pune, is all right. But don’t let the hysterical anchors get under your skin and start wearing a mask each time you step out of the house, unless you are visiting a very crowded area. Then too, the mask will protect you only for a specified period.
Without giving in to the swine flu panic and creating a stockpile of Tamiflu and N-95 masks at home and enriching pharma companies, there are a number of other measures you can take to ensure that the virus is not able to get you, irrespective of which part of the world you are in.
It is essential to remember that all kinds of viruses and bacteria can attack you when your immune system is weak, or they can weaken it easily. Hence, building your own defences would be a better, more practical, long-lasting and much more economical idea.
Here are some easy steps you can take to tackle a flu virus of any kind, including swine flu. It is not necessary to follow all the steps at once. You can pick and choose a combination of remedies that suit you best. However, if you are already suffering from flu, these measures can help only up to an extent. And, if you have been infected by H1N1, visiting a hospital and staying in solitary confinement is a must.
1. Have five duly washed leaves of Tulsi (known as Basil in English; medicinal name Ocimum sanctum) everyday in the morning. Tulsi has a large number of therapeutic properties. It keeps throat and lungs clear and helps in infections by way of strengthening your immunity.
2. Giloi (medicinal name Tinospora cordifolia) is a commonly available plant in many areas. Take a one-foot long branch of giloi, add five to six leaves of Tulsi and boil in water for 15-20 minutes or long enough to allow the water to extract its properties. Add black pepper and sendha (salt used during religious fasts), rock or black salt, or Misri (crystalised sugar like lumps to make it sweet) according to taste. Let it cool a bit and drink this kadha (concoction) while still warm. It will work wonders for your immunity. If giloi plant is not available, get processed giloi powder from Hamdard or others, and concoct a similar drink once a day.
3. A small piece of camphor (kapoor) approximately the size of a tablet should be taken once or twice a month. It can be swallowed with water by adults while children can take it along with mashed potatoes or banana because they will find it difficult to have it without any aides. Please remember camphor is not to be taken everyday, but only once each season, or once a month.
4. Those who can take garlic, must have two pods of raw garlic first thing in the morning. To be swallowed daily with lukewarm water. Garlic too strengthens immunity like the earlier measures mentioned.
5. Those not allergic to milk, must take a glass of hot or lukewarm milk every night with a small measure of haldi (turmeric).
6. Aloe vera (gwarpatha) too is a commonly available plant. Its thick and long, cactus-like leaves have an odourless gel. A teaspoon gel taken with water daily can work wonders for not only your skin and joint pains, but also boost immunity.
7. Take homeopathic medicines — Pyrogenium 200 and Inflenzium 200 in particular — five tablets three times a day, or two-three drops three times a day. While these are not specifically targeted at H1N1 either, these work well as preventive against common flu virus.
8. Do Pranayam daily (preferably under guidance if you are already not initiated into it) and go for morning jog/walk regularly to keep your throat and lungs in good condition and body in fine fettle. Even in small measures, it will work wonders for your body’s resistance against all such diseases which attack the nose, throat and lungs, besides keeping you fit.
9. Have citrus fruits, particularly Vitamin C rich Amla (Indian gooseberry) juice. Since fresh Amla is not yet available in the market (not for another three to four months), it is not a bad idea to buy packaged Amla juice which is commonly available nowadays.
10. Last but not the least, wash your hands frequently every day with soap and warm water for 15-20 seconds; especially before meals, or each time after touching a surface that you suspect could be contaminated with flu virus such as a door handle or a knob/handle, especially if you have returned from a public place or used public transport. Alcohol-based hand cleaners should be kept handy at all times and used until you can get soap and warm water.