When we think of swine flu, the first thing that comes to mind may be the H1N1 virus. In 2009, news channels all over the globe covered the spread of a flu virus that is a combination of the pig (swine), bird, and human flu, and recognized it as the H1N1 virus. Flu vaccines were clinically studied to fight the new strain of flu virus and were categorically successful by August 2010. But is it possible for you to contract the swine flu virus alone? What are the swine flu symptoms that you need to watch out for?
What is swine flu?
As the name implies, swine flu is a flu virus that affects pigs. Sometimes, the infected pigs transfer a mutated type of virus to humans who are directly close to them, like farmers, breeders, and veterinarians. There are also rare instances that the human carriers also transmit the virus to their fellow humans. For instance, in the case of the 2009 pandemic, the H1N1 type A influenza virus was transmitted from humans.
How does the swine flu spread?
The new H1N1 swine flu virus apparently spreads just like regular flu. You could pick up germs directly from airborne droplets from the cough or sneeze of an infected person. You could also pick up the virus by touching an object contaminated by the cough or touch of an infected person and then touching your eyes, mouth, or nose. That’s why you should make washing your hands a habit, even when you’re not ill. Infected people can start spreading flu germs up to a day before symptoms start, and for up to seven days after getting sick, according to the CDC.
What are the swine flu symptoms?
Not only because it is uncommon for the swine flu from pigs to spread to humans, but there is a conflicting argument when it comes to swine flu symptoms. Generally speaking, humans infected by the mutated swine flu virus would feel the same symptoms brought about by the regular flu. The following are the most common swine flu symptoms:
- Sore throat
- Runny or blocked nose
- Watery, red eyes
- Body aches (muscle and joint pain)
- Nausea and vomiting
It is very difficult to know if you have swine flu or any type of flu. The only way to distinguish the type of flu strain virus you have is if you consult your doctor and they perform a flu test. They also have the knowledge to determine what flu virus infected you based on the way the flu affects your body and how the infection progresses or wanes.
When should I see my doctor?
Ideally, if you have been showing signs of having flu, it is not necessary that you go to your doctor at once. As long as you are healthy and you know how to counter the symptoms, you can stay at home and recuperate. However, you are considered a high-risk patient and would need immediate medical attention if you have one of the following situations:
- a chronic disease that may render you immune-compromised (asthma, emphysema, liver or kidney disease, HIV, diabetes, etc.)
- pregnant women
- young children under 2 years of age
- elderly people living in nursing homes or other care facilities
However, the flu is a complicated disease. If you do get infected with the flu and develop any of the warning signs of a severe type of the disease (difficulty breathing, symptoms getting worse after feeling better, chest pain, confusion, severe vomiting, etc.) call your primary care physician right away. It is particularly important to watch younger patients for signs of severe disease because they can also show neurologic symptoms. Immediately report to your doctor if your child shows signs of irritability, confusion, refusal to eat or drink, trouble waking up or interacting, having bluish or grayish skin color, skin rashes, or a fever that goes down and then shoots back up.
What is the treatment for swine flu?
As they say, it is not wise to self-medicate. In this case, self-medicating may make the virus worse. Not all swine flu, or flu patients for that matter, need to be treated with medications. Proper rest, hydration, and symptomatic medications for fever, pain, and nausea may be taken to alleviate the symptoms. Antiviral medications, like Tamiflu or Relenza, are only recommended if you are considered a high-risk patient. These are prescribed medications, so do not confuse them with the flu medications that you see in your local drug stores that you can buy over the counter.
How can I prevent getting swine flu?
There are currently no vaccines available to prevent swine flu. Pharmaceutical companies, together with the research authorities like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), are already in the process of having a swine flu vaccine. However, there are ways you can do to prevent becoming a victim of this tricky virus.
Keep yourself healthy. Proper diet and regular exercise make the body capable of shielding itself from viruses and bacteria. Taking supplements to boost your immunity can also help.
Wash your hands regularly. You can use soap and water, or you can use hand sanitizers with alcohol, whichever is readily available for you.
Avoid close contact. If you are infected, isolate yourself so others will not get the virus. If you are with people who have flu-like symptoms, try not to get too close as the virus can be spread airborne.
Wear a face mask. Whether you are infected or you are exposed to a place with the virus, wear a mask. Although there is no definitive evidence that a face mask prevents flu transmission, do not rely solely on a face mask to prevent the spread of the infection.
Feed your newborn with care. Breastfeeding mothers with swine flu symptoms should express their breast milk, and the child should be fed by someone else.