Swine flu - A/H1N1 influenza: Symptoms and treatment
Six new cases of the A (H1N1) influenza also known as the Swine flu were confirmed Monday in Morocco, bringing the recorded number of people infected with the disease on the African continent to 177. New cases of the swine flu are recorded each day all over the world, raising serious concerns among populations. The place of origin of the virus is unknown. The World Health Organization (WHO) has released information on the symptoms and treatment of swine flu.
The swine flu also known as the A(H1N1) influenza virus is a new that has never before circulated among humans. The virus is not related to previous or current human seasonal influenza viruses. It is spread from person-to-person. It is transmitted as easily as the normal seasonal flu and can be passed to other people by exposure to infected droplets expelled by coughing or sneezing that can be inhaled, or that can contaminate hands or surfaces. To prevent spread, people who are ill should cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, stay home when they are unwell, clean their hands regularly, and keep some distance from healthy people, as much as possible. There are no known instances of people getting infected by exposure to pigs or other animals.
Signs and symptoms of infection
Signs of influenza A(H1N1) are flu-like, including fever, cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, sore throat and runny nose, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhoea.
Why are we so worried about this flu when hundreds of thousands die every year from seasonal epidemics?
Seasonal influenza occurs every year and the viruses change each year - but many people have some immunity to the circulating virus which helps limit infections. Some countries also use seasonal influenza vaccines to reduce illness and deaths.
But influenza A(H1N1) is a new virus and one to which most people have no or little immunity and, therefore, this virus could cause more infections than are seen with seasonal flu. WHO is working closely with manufacturers to expedite the development of a safe and effective vaccine but it will be some months before it is available.
The new influenza A(H1N1) appears to be as contagious as seasonal influenza, and is spreading fast particularly among young people (from ages 10 to 45). The severity of the disease ranges from very mild symptoms to severe illnesses that can result in death. The majority of people who contract the virus experience the milder disease and recover without antiviral treatment or medical care. Of the more serious cases, more than half of hospitalized people had underlying health conditions or weak immune systems.
Most people experience mild illness and recover at home. When should someone seek medical care?
A person should seek medical care if they experience shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or if a fever continues more than three days. For parents with a young child who is ill, seek medical care if a child has fast or labored breathing, continuing fever or convulsions (seizures).
Supportive care at home - resting, drinking plenty of fluids and using a pain reliever for aches - is adequate for recovery in most cases. (A non-aspirin pain reliever should be used by children and young adults because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome.)
For what purposes can antiviral drugs be used against influenza A(H1N1)?
So far most people who have contracted the new A (H1N1) virus have experienced influenza-like symptoms and recovered without antiviral treatment. Antiviral drugs may reduce the symptoms and duration of illness, just as they do for seasonal influenza. They also may contribute to preventing severe disease and death. Tests on viruses obtained from patients in Mexico and the United States have indicated that current new H1N1 viruses are sensitive to neuraminidase inhibitors; oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza).