Swine Flu or Swine Influenza is known to be a disease of pigs. It is a respiratory disease which is highly contagious and is caused by a virus called influenza A. Almost about 1% to 4% of pigs that get swine flu are known to die. It usually spread from pigs that are infected to other pigs, aerosols and also from pigs that are infected but do not have any symptoms of it. Mostly swine flu is the H1N1 influenza type;however, they can sometimes come from other types such as H1N2, H3N1 or H3N2. The current swine flu infection that is spread among humans is from the type H1N1 which is not very dangerous like others.
Mode of Transmission in Humans
Mode of transmission of swine flu occurs in humans when the infected person coughs or sneezes in presence of uninfected people. It is the viral spread which is a cause of concern as one infected person can spread the disease to hundreds of people. WHO officials are concerned as this virus could cause influenza pandemic. It can be very mild in form or can become potentially very serious though we do not know which way it will take.
The mode of transmission could also be if an uninfected person comes in contact with any item that has the virus on it. The infection can be spread by a single virus. A single sneeze from an infected person can release about 40,000 droplets which can either settle on objects or remain as aerosols.
When frozen, the avian influenza can survive indefinitely. The virus can survive only for five minutes on the skin whereas it survives for fifteen minutes on dry tissue paper and can survive for more than a day or two on plastic and other metal surfaces while it survives longer on mucus secretions. It becomes inactive when heated at a temperature of 56 degrees C for 60 minutes and also by pouring acids on the infected surfaces.
A study done some time back on the survival of the human influenza virus showed some interesting fact of the virus surviving on banknotes that are dispensed in billions daily. In high concentrations it survives upto 3 days and the same inoculum in the presence of mucus is known to survive the longest (upto 17 days). The high prevalence of this virus in winters is attributed to the low humidity and lack of sunlight which is an optimal environment for the virus to grow.
Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
In an infected person the symptoms of swine flu would include, chills and fever, severe headache, sore throat, muscle/joint pains, dry cough and general fatigue. Arrival at a diagnosis is usually but mostly made when an infected person lives in an area that is affected by this virus or strain.
Nowadays, there is a special “Swine Influenza test kit” that is available which can help with diagnosis though sometimes it might show false positive results hence a correct diagnosis is very essential to keep the disease under check. The disease is treated by antiviral drugs which help clear the symptoms, provide quick relief for the patients. Simple preventive measures like avoiding on a trip to infected areas, preventing coming in contact with infected persons and maintaining hygiene will keep Swine fluat bay.