Swine Flu - A Deadly Virus rises again in Rajasthan - Seeker's Thoughts

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Swine Flu - A Deadly Virus rises again in Rajasthan

 Swine flu causes 169 deaths this year while 4,571 people have tested positive for the virus, with Rajasthan accounting for over 40% of the cases. Rajasthan recorded 1,911 cases and 75 deaths while Gujarat with 600 cases and 24 deaths according to the data issued by the government.

Delhi has reported 532 deaths and Punjab reported 27 deaths cases, followed by Haryana which recorded eight deaths and 372 cases. Maharashtra has recorded 82 cases and 12 deaths. With the numbers going up constantly, people are getting infected with H1N1 virus.

What is swine flu?
Swine flu is a disease of pigs that can, in rare cases, be passed to humans. It is highly contagious respiratory disease caused by one of much influenza a viruses.

The disease is spread among pigs by direct and indirect contact, aerosols, and from pigs that are infected but do not have symptoms. In many parts of the world, pigs are vaccinated against swine flu.
Most commonly, swine flu is of the H1N1 influenza subtype; however, swine flu viruses can sometimes come from other subtypes, such as H1N2, H3N1 and H3N2.

The 2009 outbreaks of swine flu on humans were of the H1N1 subtype. It is important to note that, although it developed in swine, the 2009 pandemic virus was not completely derived from swine. The virus contains a combination of flu genes from bird, swine, and human flu types.

There are only few causes of wine flu in humans. They are:
Contact with infected pigs this is the most common way of catching swine flu. Any contact with infected pigs makes transmission more likely.

Contact with infected humans: this is much less common way of catching swine flu, but is a risk, especially for those in close contact with an infected person.
In cases where humans have infected other humans, close contact was necessary with the infected person, and it nearly always occurred in closed groups of people.

Risk Factors
Some people are more at risk of catching swine flu than others; including:
People aged over 65 years, children under 5 years, people with chronic diseases, pregnant women, teenager receiving long-term aspirin therapy, anyone with a compromised immune system.

Swine flu is mostly diagnosed through nothing but the symptoms.

There is also a quick test called the rapid influenza diagnostic test that can help identify swine flu. However, these vary in effectiveness and may show a negative result even though influenza is present. More accurate tests are available in more specialized laboratories.

However, in a similar way to seasonal flu, symptoms are often mild and self-resolve. Most people do not receive a test for swine flu as treatment would be the same, regardless of the outcome.

If symptoms are mild, it is extremely unlikely that any connection to swine influenza is found, even if the virus is there.


Viruses from pigs do occasionally cause outbreaks of human infection. Because swine flu symptoms are similar to those of seasonal flu, swine flu in humans is often not detected. If it is found, it is normally during seasonal influenza surveillance.

Swine flu symptoms
People who have swine flu can be contagious one day before they have any symptoms and as many as 7 days after they get sick. Kids can be contagious for as long as 10 days.

Most symptoms are the same as seasonal flu. They can include

-         Cough

-         Fever

-         Sore throat

-         Stuffy or runny nose

-         Body aches

-         Headache

-         Chills

-         Fatigue

The Group at High risk includes
 Other respiratory condition like pneumonia, pregnant women, people suffering from chronic diseases like heart and diabetes. People more than 65 years of age and children younger than 2 years.

Evidence that India has not learnt any lessons from the past few years HIN1 epidemic
Despite the high numbers, there is no system in place to release data periodically and frequently. Compare this with the regular updates provided by the U.S centres for disease control and prevention, especially during an epidemic.

There has also been a failure on the part of governments to spread awareness about prevention strategies.
Uptake of influenza vaccination by people, especially by those belonging to the high-risk category, has been extremely poor, with only about 10,000-12,000 doses of  H1NA vaccine sold in the last six months by the pune-based vaccine manufacturer.

Since the 2009 pandemic, H1N1 has become a seasonal flu virus strain in India even when the temperature soars during the summer months.
Vaccination of health –care workers and people in high risk categories is the only way to reduce the toll.

 Guidelines for H1N1 vaccination of people belonging to high-risk categories such as pregnant women, very young and old people and those with certain underlying illness.

Just like other influenza viruses. H1N1 infection can be prevented by practice basic hygiene.
Wear a proper surgical mask during flu season because the number of cases shoots up during the summer monsoon seasons.
 Always cover the face while coughing or sneezing. Ensure other should follow the same practice; always wash hands before and after eating and particularly after returning from public places. The virus can also spread through droplets that have settles on surface so avoid touching them if anyone around a person who has flu like symptoms. Avoid visiting unhygienic places or using public restrooms. 
Drinking lots of warm water an fluids wash off the virus into the stomach where they cannot survive.

Way forward

A range of administrative policies and practices can be used to minimize influenza exposures before arrival, upon arrival, and throughout the duration of the visit to the healthcare serving.

Measures include screening and triage of symptomatic patients and implementation of respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette.

Information could be collected from different surveys and surveillances to:

Find out when and where influenza activity is occurring, track influenza-related illness, determine what influenza viruses are circulating, detect changes in influenza viruses, measure the impact influenza is having on hospitalizations and deaths on the USA

Government should follow the S.influenza surveillance system which is a collaborative effort between centre for disease control and its other partners in state, local and territorial health departments, public health and clinical laboratories, vital statistics offices, healthcare providers, clinic and emergency departments.

Facilitate awareness and characterization of influenza-A viruses with pandemic potential and accelerate the implementation of effective public health responses.